Review: Parallel 28 (2021)

Vienna Shorts International Competition
Segment: About the Unease

Courtesy of Unifrance

Did you know that the word “salary” comes from Latin “salarium”, which means a soldier’s allowance for the purchase of salt? Did you know that Salzburg rose as a city state in the Middle Ages based on the salt trade? And even God himself spoke and demanded the addition of salt to the offerings, as it was written in the book of Leviticus. Salt does not only improve individual lives (imagine eating the unsalted food for the rest of your life), but also builds the cities, nations and cultures. Now we can buy it in every corner store or supermarket at very affordable price, but do we ever ask ourselves where the salt comes from, and what kind of trip it has to pass in order to end up on our table?

Santiago Bonilla opens his short documentary Parallel 28 with almost abstract images of white textures that could pass as mountains covered by snow or the sea foam driven by waves, or even the white noise. Later on we realize it is salt, taken from a mine and put on a barge ship. The title is cryptic, but also telling: the largest salt mine in the world is located in Mexico, on the 28th parallel.

The whole film, and with 25 minutes of runtime, it is not a short-short, is set in the mine and its adjacent harbour where the precious load is transferred to ships, commencing its voyage around the world. We can see people working, we can see their dirty hands and tired faces, and we can hear them talking over the walkie-talkies, sometimes sharing some functional information, other times telling the legend of the one-eyed thieving dog for fun. The observational approach is sufficient to capture the spirit of a trade and of an industry, but Bonilla aims for more than that.

He actually goes for poetry, letting the lights and sounds play and interact, turning the screen salt-like white due to the sun rays reflecting on the sea surface, and letting the natural noises mix with the industrial ones, along with human voices. At times, there is even a sense of philosophy, the teaching of the circle of life, once the dead body of a whale is washed ashore and occasionally pulled back to the sea, while providing a delicious, salty meal for the seagulls. Parallel 28 is a type of film that leaves a lasting impression.

Original title: Paralelo 28
Year: 2021
Runtime: 24’ 24’’
Country: France
Language: Spanish
Directed by: Santiago Bonilla
Written by: Santiago Bonilla
Cinematography by: Santiago Bonilla
Editing by: Baptiste Evrard
Sound by: Emiliano Mendoza Uribe
Sound design by: Nicolas Verhaeghe
Production company: Le Fresnoy – Studio international des arts contemporains