Not only does Jackson accomplish a lot with very few words, but she has an incredible way of making audiences feel what they’re watching. While the film offers very little dialogue, it quite powerfully engages viewers in a sensory way. Check out the trailer below for a glimpse of All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt.
The trailer is stunning, but some might feel that it leaves the audience with more questions than answers. Fortunately we were able to speak with the director Raven Jackson about her feature debut.
“It’s a film that lyrically explores the life of Mack, a Black woman in Mississippi, and it does so by fluently drifting through experiences of her life at different ages and moments,” Jackson told Global Grind when asked what she would tell someone what All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt is about. “A question that I asked myself when I came to the film is, If our lives were to flood, what are those moments that would rise this surface and how would they speak to each other? How would they spill in between each other? So that’s a question that really guided me with this project and so it’s a film but it’s also an experience you know and I love the thought of the audience allowing it to wash over them.”
‘All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt’ Tells The Story Of Southern Black Family
We were particularly drawn to the way the film showcases Mack’s family and the importance of her relationship with her sister, mother, father, and grandmother. Jackson revealed that some aspects of the film directly mirrored her own experiences with family.
“For me the film deals a lot with family, a lot with community, a lot is passed from generation to generation and also how our lives change, our relationships change, family changes,” Jackson explained to Global Grind. “For me, the generational aspect was important because when thinking of family I’m thinking of different generations. My relationship with my grandma was very close on both sides of my family, but particularly with this film, my maternal grandmother, and my relationship with her really informed this film. For instance, the title of the film comes from a conversation I had with her around the practice of eating clay dirt. You know that scene with the girls and Grandma Betty, who was actually named after my mother’s father’s mother, so it’s a Grandma Betty in my life. It feels very close, those relationships to me and I wanted it to be reflected in the work. Again, like her father is passing down from one generation to the next the fishing, the teaching how to fish, how to skin a fish, also eating clay dirt, just how our life has these resonances and ripples of different generations across families.”
Jackson masterfully captures the beauty and joy in some of life’s most mundane moments, but All Dirt Roads… also delivers moments where Mack’s family deal with loss, most notably through the death of their mother. One of the few lines in the film comes from the girls’ grandmother, who tells Mack and her sister, “She’s going to miss you girls” at the beginning of the scene where they have just buried their mother.
“Something that runs through the film is that it doesn’t end or begin it just changes form,” Raven explained. “Just because she’s not physically there doesn’t mean you know she isn’t there in some way. For me that line speaks to their mother having not physically being there but still being there.”
Raven Jackson Talks Casting ‘All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt
Jackson assembled an exceptional cast for All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt, Chris Chalk and Sheila Atim tackle the roles of Mack and Josie’s parents, Isaiah and Evelyn, Kaylee Nicole Johnson and Jaya Henry play the younger versions of Mack and Josie and new actors Charleen McClure and Jannie Hampton are incredible as the adult Mack and Grandma Betty.
“As a director I love to work with a mix of first-time actors and more established actors,” Jackson said of the way the film was cast. “Charleen is someone I knew from my life, she’s a poet as well and we were in the park one day and I just saw it. I just saw the potential there. The role calls for someone who can believably play someone in their late teens or early 30’s and she has a face that holds many years so I knew that was something that intrigued me, but also she has a face that says a lot without needing to say words which the role called for. We did you know explore with casting but I trusted that spark that came and and we saw where it led and led to her being cast.”
“When I met Sheila, again the film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and is someone who her face is just so expressive and her body so expressive, but when we met for that role and the Grandma Betty role, it was important for me, I really wanted to cast folks who knew about clay dirt and I didn’t know she did until we met. So she’s very familiar with it and off of our conversation I knew it was her.”
“Chris Chalk is an amazing actor and also someone who can convey so much, he’s so expressive without needing to express words. Also speaking to a Reginald Helms Jr., who plays the older Wood, it was just me you know and Maria Altamirano, one of producers on the film, we were in the production office and people hadn’t landed in a substantial way for Wood yet. We were so looking for him and I think I Googled musical artists from the South. I like to say I know what I’m looking for, but I’m open to how I get there and I think that about that a lot with casting. Of course we go to traditional routes too. I have an amazing casting director Candice Alustiza who found the children, but I like to cast a wide net. I put a lot of hooks in the water and I found Reggie through just a simple Google search. I saw one of his music videos and I loved how expressive because he was with his body. He has great eyes, a great face that you just want to watch and it just so happens someone on our production team knew one of his managers and we got the conversation going and the rest is history.”
“For Grandma Betty it was an open casting call in Memphis and her name is Miss Jannie Lee Hampton and she was there with her daughter and her grandchildren, just off to the side sitting down with her purse. I was like, ‘What’s your name,’ because I had already cast Charleen, at that point. There was a resonance there but also she had a gold tooth right where my mom used to have hers and I asked her if she knew about clay dirt and she did. We had a great conversation off of that. It was just things like that. Just being open to the possibility. You never know what can happen and I find that that’s really been a gift, just being open to what moves me and where that can lead.”
Jackson’s strong instincts have guided her to make one of the most critically acclaimed projects this year. We greatly enjoyed All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt and are looking forward to watching Raven Jackson’s career evolve.