MIFF 2014 Critics Campus review: My Name is Salt
Published: August 10, 2014 – 2:42PM
An absorbingly visual story about the lives of some of the 40,000 people who flock to the Indian desert for eight months each year to work the salt pans.
It’s rare that a film can so elegantly encapsulate essential truths about humanity, and yet MIFF this year features two documentaries with overlapping titles that do exactly that. The Salt of the Earth focuses on the career of photographer Sebastiao Selgado, whose life’s work represents a process of artistic and natural regeneration. Farida Pacha’s My Name is Salt takes a microcosmic approach, detailing the lives of some of the 40,000 people who flock to the Indian desert for eight months each year to work the salt pans. Pacha, alongside cinematographer Lutz Konermann and editor Katharina Fiedler, has crafted an absorbingly visual story. One family’s gruelling toil becomes a rhythmic, graceful life cycle in itself; when their work is done, the arid desert is transformed by monsoons and the salt pans wash away. Each minute action and interaction with the scorched landscape is presented in exquisite compositions, observing the workers from a contemplative distance. But Pacha never detaches the audience from their struggle. While the work is menial, there is a devastating poetry to it: the workers are unquestionably being exploited, but they will return every year just to eke out a livelihood from the broken terrain – the true salt of the earth.