Every year, when the monsoon season finishes, thousands of families travel to the Little Raan of Kutch, 5000 square miles of saline desert in Gujerat, India. Over the next eight months they extract salt from the land, using manual techniques that have been used for generations. My Name is Salt is the result of director Farida Pacha and cinematographer Lutz Konermann spending a season with one of these families.
The desert is sepia and ochre in tone, the limited palette only livened by the bright colours of the womens' clothes, shimmering in the heat haze. The land is utterly desolate in the dry season, the women need to travel far across the desert to get firewood, drinking water has to be brought in by truck, while the water to flood the salt fields is pumped from underground wells. (However, despite this I was intrigued to see some birds and insects seemingly thriving here. Not just the house sparrows and pigeons that one would expect to find around human habitations, living off discarded food, but also mayflies and a dragonfly that would need a constant source of freshwater, bees that would need flowers, birds that sounded like larks and a distant view of what looked like bee-eaters (which of course would be eating the bees). I began to wonder about the nearest oasis, but we never saw this in the film.....).
The film is a meditative, revealing exploration of how humans can survive in extreme conditions by manipulating the natural environment and how what is essentially an ancient way of life is gradually changing - the oil powered water pump, the oil powered electricity generator, the small school set up by a charity, the radios and mobile phones.
It is clear that this is not an easy way of life, people are working constantly, from the moment they arrive back after the monsoon, to dig their equipment back out from under the soil and to set up their tents to the time when they shovel the mountains of sparkling white salt onto the trucks in return for less money than they really need.
My Name is Salt is part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and is showing:
1820, 23 June and 1810, 24 June both at Cineworld.
You can read my previous reviews of the film festival so far by following the links below:
Legacy, Mistory and Language - a review of N: The Madness of Reason; A House in Berlin and Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?
Ancient Temples, Vertigo and Film-making - a review of Manakamana and La ultima pelicula.
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival amd am attending free press screenings of these films.
A reminder that I'm running a blog giveaway to win a pdf of my book Bougainvillea Dancing, poetry, prose and photos inspired by Malawi. Find out more and enter here.
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