Rudro (Titas Zia) is an artist, specifically a sculptor. After his father dies he abandons city life for a small fishing community in Bangladesh. What promises to be an introspective journey in which Rudro explores his relationship with a father he never liked by replicating his journey to the simpler life is turned on its head when the fishing season fails.
Rudro is making statues on the island which are exciting the local children. He makes up stories about fantastical beasts and encourages the children to be imaginative and playful and the village elders take notice of this whimsy. Once the fishing fails, the locals turn on Rudro and his strange ways, accusing him of idolatry.
Ultimately the film portrays a superstitious community attempting to find methods of controlling the disastrous of climate change in their community. As the chef wonders why their livelihoods have disappeared, a harsh wind can be heard outside. The frightening truth is that nothing on this island can prevent the changes that are coming. As remote as they are, they are a part of this world. Rudro’s statues may not he causing the fish draught, but the elders are right that it’s coming from the city and it’s time that Rudro accept his part of the responsibility.
Rudro is disliked for his culture and background but at the heart of the prejudice Rudro experiences is his appreciation of beauty whilst everyone else values that which they can eat or use. Rudro is unable to fish or heal or take part in their rituals. This results in prejudice against him that further separates him from the community and stokes tension.
The Salt in our Waters is beautifully shot. We experience Rudro’s artistic appreciation of the aesthetics of the island as he neglects to assess it’s real character and the danger he is in. An immense ship completely grounded on the beach, an extravagant parade of colourfully costumed locals and vivid tableaus of island life are just some of the visual joys of the film. The island is starkly beautiful. Wind swept and mud drenched. The life on the island is rendered in gorgeous but also menacing tones.
Rudro’s craft is portrayed with a beautiful tenderness that resembles the work the other men undertake at sea. But his is a burden of the soul, not the stomach. Xxx is fantastic as Rudro. He is gentle, tragic and convincingly charismatic in his dealings with the children. As the community starts to turn on him and he is cornered he becomes more compelling.
The Salt in our Waters is a very timely and absorbing study of a community under threat and a man trying and failing to find the simple lives in the current climate.