Film as Poetry: Raven Jackson on All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt | Interviews

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Something that I really loved about the film is just how tactile and textural it is. Like the scene during the funeral when they’re in their grandma’s car. I felt like I was in their car. I felt like I could smell that car. How did you capture those textures?

At every level I was looking for the right elements. I remember even when Miss Jamie, Miss Jamie Lee Hampton, who plays Grandma Betty.

She’s so good.

She’s so good! Speaking of casting, that was an open casting call in Memphis. She was there with her daughter and her grandchildren, just sitting to the side. I saw her, and I had already cast Charlene at that point, so when I saw her I thought, oh, there was a similarity to Charlene here. But then she also had a gold tooth where my mom had hers when she had one. And it was important for me to cast someone who knew about clay dirt for that role. And she did. And we had a great conversation. And so she was amazing. But I remember, even in the casting process for her, like, I remember seeing photographs of her hands. She has great hands, the texture of her hands. So, the texture of the car we found was great, but also the sound for me was important. It’s a quieter environmental sound, but also the sound just like the seats moving. So it was about all of those layers, and trying to be intentional with those layers to get at that tactility.

You mentioned hands, and I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot about hands, but what I was particularly interested in is the hands are so emotional in this film. Every time you cut to a hand, there’s a lot pulsing through it. I was wondering how you direct an actor’s hands?

You know, I try not to when possible. . . I mean, there’s one scene, the baby washing scene, when they might have been aware it was mostly their hands. But I try not to call attention to it because I wanted it to feel natural. Because with natural instances it’s your whole body, not just your hands, so I wanted those moments to feel like a whole. Even in the scene with Mac and Wood at the grocery store–

That was the scene I was thinking of. 

Even that, when we shot just hands, they might have known. I don’t know if I told them or if I just told production. But either way, it’s like I’m trying to be, again, to be intentional with it being a full body experience, even if I’m getting details of it. Because for me, that translates. I want it to feel emotionally, the full body, not just not just the hand, but all of it. 

You mentioned clay dirt a couple times. Obviously, that’s a huge metaphor in the film. And that opening sequence where she’s sort of playing with the silt, that also really made me, speaking of moments that you forget about until you’re thinking about it, but as a kid, I always used to play with the silt. That was one of my favorite things to do. And the way she’s playing with it really brought me back to being like six like after the rain. I just love to hear your thoughts on silt, because silt is so interesting. It’s almost liquid, but you know, it’s dirt and you know that it can be harder. And I always think as a kid, I was always like, how does it do that? I did not understand elements. I still don’t really understand it. I don’t know how dirt can be, like, the pyramids and silt at the same time. 


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