Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth

How shall I begin my story that has no beginning?

Lines like the one up there are all throughout this film, so bear with me as I put up a few warning signs. Salt of the Earth would probably be an unremarkable film in any other setting than the one it was made in. Of course, anyone even moderately knowledgeable in film lore knows about the 1950’s Blacklist era, where supposed Communist sympathizers in Hollywood were barred from making movies with any studio ever again. So what were these pariahs to do, now that they couldn’t make movies? Easy; they made their own movie. Salt of the Earth is the result of a bunch of blacklisted filmmakers, cast and crew, getting together to make a film outside the Hollywood system that shunned them so. This alone is probably enough historical merit to add it to the list, which is a good thing for it, as this one doesn’t have too many decent qualities about it.

Salt of the Earth deals with a small town of Mexican-American miners who, after getting fed up with their working conditions, decide to go on strike to pressure the American management into change. Of course, the management is less than receptive, and a bit of a checkers game between the two factions begins to see who will come out on top. This might be a good premise, and one that would make for a fine film, if not for three things: the storytelling, the production quality, and the social metaphor that the film embodies. I mentioned the film was sort of like a checkers game, and I deliberately did not use the analogy “chess game”, as this film takes an extremely simplistic and unengaging approach to what would, in any other film, be a tactful battle of wits. This is helped none by the rather atrocious production value, such as the ill-placed editing cuts and the listless direction of the plot; when you can audibly hear the difference in the white noise between two shots in a film as it cuts back and forth, as I did, you know there was no proofreading or quality check done on this film at all. As for the social metaphor, as it turns out, these supposed Communist sympathizers, when forced to band together to make a film on their own, come up with a very Communist-sympathizing product. Maybe these men could have been a little less blunt and open about where their loyalties really lied, rather than making a film that embodies everything that Hollywood was afraid would happen to their films if they were allowed to stay.

All in all, if this was what all the blacklisted filmmakers could join together and come up with, maybe they should’ve just stayed blacklisted, as this film is inept in almost every regard. That’s a rather mean thing to say, but it is warranted, in my opinion; almost everything about this film is amateur and sloppily put together. The only saving grace is that it’s short, and despite being so amateur and shoddy, this actually isn’t so hard to get through the whole thing. But still, after watching it myself, I can speak for the majority of the people who haven’t seen this by asking; who would want to?

Arbitrary Rating: 5/10

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