Synopsis: Salt is famously “the only rock eaten by humans.” It’s also the only rock inhaled by humans for health benefits. SALT IN THE AIR, a feature-length documentary film, will tell the stories of salt miners, mine engineers, doctors, asthma patients and residents of a small Ukrainian village called Solotvyno, which is located deep in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Romania. A 2,000 year old salt mine exists beneath the town with salt so pure that inhaling it can virtually cure asthma in children. Today, the salt mine is collapsing, the asthma clinics are troubled, the miners have held protests, and the mine director has been fired. Tensions are rising. On May 19, 2011, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced that he would “take all necessary measures” to rectify the environmental crisis at the salt mine in Solotvyno, though few believe his claim.
But the subject of salt is larger than salt mining and this environmental crisis in the Carpathian Mountains, and it’s more mysterious. As an icon for life’s wonderful and terrifying magnificence, salt has been equated with the soul and noted as a possible source of life itself. Alchemists claimed it was a combination of water and congealed fire. This reification of a vital material substance presents us with a visceral example of our dependence on the Earth and a reflection of what it means to be human. Similar to air and water, salt is the Earth made palatable or ingestible. While presenting a portrait of a mining town, SALT IN THE AIR will also trace the connection between a huge deposit of salt deep underground and the fragile lungs of an asthmatic child who walks through a small village, far above on the Earth’s surface.
SALT IN THE AIR is nothing less than a story about life, with salt as the centerpiece. The characters engage in conversations about mining, childhood, industry, betrayal, capitalism, corruption, food, health, air and life. SALT IN THE AIR is at once about a small town dealing with profound change and a large question about the meaning of salt to all living beings and to the Earth. In an interview recorded for SALT IN THE AIR, beloved poet Oleh Lysheha tells us, “Salt all the time reminds us of human memory, tears and the bitter taste of great happiness.” Status: Completed.
ENRICO ROSSINI CULLEN is a film director, producer and writer. He is currently directing a long-form documentary titled SALT IN THE AIR and exec-producing THE HUMAN TOWER. Enrico co-produced PUSHING THE ELEPHANT (2010), which premiered at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York and was broadcast on Independent Lens in March 2011. He was a producer for AN ENCOUNTER WITH SIMONE WEIL (2010), which premiered in competition at IDFA in 2010. He was a consulting producer for ELECTION DAY (POV 2008) and ARCTIC SON (POV 2007). He edited AMAZING GRACE (2004) and HANGING (2004) with artist Wangechi Mutu and he wrote, directed and edited THE MISADVENTURE OF 95 (2005), an original short narrative. He holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago.