Review – The Salt of the Earth, an Australian documentary about the founder of chicken salt!

It’s been a staple of the Australian diet for decades. Whether it’s the local chicken shop, a servo or the local footy ground, every person in this great and wide land has been asked the question: “Do you want regular salt or chicken salt?”

One of my favourite Carl Barron comedy bits bases itself around the origins of one of the greatest condiments ever known to man. Barron suggests that an old wives’ tale states that chicken salt is made up of ground chicken feet, and while it’s played for laughs, the question lingers still… what really is chicken salt?

A question burning enough for Brisbane-based directors, Jacob Richardson and Thomas Van Kalken, who decided to pursue the truth behind the great mystery in their new short documentary, The Salt of the Earth.

The story of chicken salt begins in the early 1970s in Gawler, a small rural town in South Australia, where a local wholesaler, Peter Brinkworth, had the desire to make his hot chicken’s skins even tastier. Running his small business out of a local theatre, Peter dedicated his time and craft to perfecting the salty rub, which soon became the talk of everyone’s tastebuds in the town.

But, with chicken salt being as popular and available in the mainstream supermarkets, it’s a wonder how Peter Brinkworth isn’t a millionaire with his infamous culinary invention! What The Salt of the Earth sets out to unravel though, is more than just making money off chicken salt, but a deeply human story about overcoming tragedy, being a pillar of a small community, and the importance of family. These themes are captured incredibly well by Richardson and Van Kalken, and even more so portrayed on screen by the exuberant and enthusiastic Peter and his wife, Helen.

The Salt of the Earth manages to be a beautiful time capsule of 1970s Gawler, with a fascinating look at the history of the time, through the lens of Peter, who was a major aspect of what that small rural town stood for. Going into this short documentary thinking it’s going to be solely around chicken salt, makes the unassuming heart at its core feel even more impactful, resonating with a universal feeling of family and community being at the story’s forefront.

Peter and Helen’s willingness to be incredibly open about the struggles they faced, and how their love for each other helped overcome life’s obstacles, is the perfect sprinkle of flavour on top of an already intriguing premise.

With a background in filmography and photography, Richardson’s keen eye for capturing breathtaking landscapes of country South Australia, and the seamless editing of archival footage, adds a level of visual engagement that is rarely seen in self-produced, lower budget films. Even in the moments of headshot interviews or the preparation of incredibly delicious meats, the cinematography is always working to add even more life into the story.

The Salt of the Earth not only answers the age-old question of where chicken salt comes from, but it also tells a beautiful story about humanity and the importance of having people you love by your side. Do not miss this short when it premieres at the Adelaide Film Festival!

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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