BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Salt begins with a frantic knock on the door in the middle of the night. Then a phone call, all with the same message: Get salt, and warm water. No, hot water. Bathe. Drink. The calls don’t stop coming, and the knocks too, and the fear and doubt and paranoia.
2015 short movie, Salt, is one of the many angles of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. 93 Days did a perfect job of showing the struggles of those who were right in the face of the biological war, but Umar Turaki goes further to show us in less than twenty minutes, the plight of those who were secondary victims, mostly victims of their own fears and hearsays than the virus itself. It reminds one of high school Social Studies about how art is for pointing out matters of societal importance and addressing them. This, I think, is the goal of many a short film: to tell a story people can relate to, to mirror society in a way that wastes no one’s time but rather, makes it.
Cathy (Ven Lannap) and her flat mates get calls at night instructing them to do a salt and water ritual to avoid contracting Ebola. She is a pharmacist and it makes no sense, but now she must choose between science and religion, love and common sense. She is constantly faced with the statements: “Why not just obey, what do you have to lose?”, “Obedience is better than sacrifice”, “Better safe than sorry”.
The Salt story is absolutely apt, especially with the way it shows the typical Nigerian reaction to things we do not clearly understand. It is interpreted by few but brilliant actors. At some point, it ceases to be a film and just becomes a sight outside ones window, seamless and natural. The way the mother threatens in her sleepy voice to leave their home town to spank them if they do not respond, the way Harry the boyfriend (Leonard Lepdung) won’t stop calling, employing every cajoling technique in the book, and citing a very good argument of the biblical Naaman and the instruction from the prophet Elisha that seemed to make no sense at the time, Salt causes its audience to think long and hard, to ask questions, to laugh, to wonder.
Umar Turaki, the director and screenwriter does with this film many things. He entertains with subtle sarcasm in a way that seems unpremeditated (Cathy asks her flat mate, “Did you wipe your body with a towel?” She responds, “No. I used a mop.”), then he shows, in the last two scenes particularly. In one, Cathy is happy her boyfriend is proud of her for doing the right thing by agreeing to bathe with the salt solution. In the next, she is upset with herself and angrily pours all the salt in the sink while her flat mates watch. No words are being said, but the message comes through, perhaps even clearer than when the words were used. The production quality reflects a close attention to detail, and the soundtrack ‘Somebody’ by Honey Adum is excellently fitting.
An intelligent piece of work, Salt is a story that needed to be told. And it is properly told, engaging in a way that would linger in our memories for quite a while.