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Sundance 2023 Review: All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt – “The cinematic craftsmanship on display is impressive.”

A sensory meditation of what a young Black woman named Mack experiences going from childhood to adulthood in Mississippi.

The story begins with the closeup of a captured fish and establishes that an adolescent named Mack has a deep affinity for nature who finds peace in touching the silt of the riverbed or the earth beneath her feet; this spiritual connection is never broken despite all of the joys and traumas experienced as a child and adult.

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Closeups that are not perfectly framed dominate while there are very few wide shots; this cinematography heightens the sensory awareness and the feeling of intimacy with the characters and their environments.  A handheld approach creates an impression of a documentary and being in the midst of what is unfolding.  A lot of detail has gone into the sound design to emulate nature and breathe life into the environment.  Rich earth tones are found in the interior settings while there is a coolness to the exterior shots which makes for an intriguing visual distinction.  The shot of an adult Mack walking from the inside of a church to the front porch where she watches an afternoon downpour visually sums up the movie.

There is a timeless quality though subtle clues such as portraits of Martin Luther Jr. and John F. Kennedy hanging together on a wall suggest the 1960s.  Nothing is wrong with meditative pacing but it makes for shots lingering longer than necessary.  Oddly enough, the leisurely attitude is juxtaposed with abrupt time shifts.  The house fire is dramatic but quickly fades away narratively and the death of the mother comes out of nowhere thereby disorienting the viewer.  The cinematic craftsmanship on display in the feature directorial debut of Revan Jackson is impressive and rightfully caught the attention of Barry Jenkins who is renowned for creating soulful imagery and serves as a producer on the project.  It will be interesting to watch the raw talent of Jackson become more refined and confident in the years to come.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19–29, 2023, in person and online, and for more information visit

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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