This mesmerising observational documentary about the desert-bound Gujurat quest to make “the whitest salt on Earth” is an extraordinary sensory experience. Photographed in long takes over a period of eight months, Farida Pacha’s festival prize-winner eschews explanatory narration, relying instead upon the natural ebb and flow of organic understanding. We watch and follow a salt farmer and his family as they perform the Sisyphean task of creating, filling, and sifting vast salt lakes that will be washed away by the monsoons when their endeavours are ended, leaving them to start again from scratch next year. Here are moonscapes of mud, made all the more eerie by Marcel Vaid’s alien score, accompanied by the strange chugging of oil-driven engines, dug out of the earth and then reburied, born and reborn, year upon year.
At the heart of this labour is a circling prayer, an act of faith as strange and miraculous as the glistening salt crystals that emerge diamond-like from the waters. Cinematographer Lutz Konermann captures the backbreaking beauty of it all, while director Pacha finds her way into the very heart of this timeless ritual.