Parish Malfitano’s supernatural horror ‘Salt Along the Tongue’ a love letter to mothers

Top row (L-R): Mayu Iwasaki, Maria de Marco, Nicole Toum. Middle row: Dina Panozzo, Laneikka Denne, Liz Lin. Bottom row: Helen Vassiliadis, Olga Olshansky, Caroline Levien.

Writer-director Parish Malfitano begins production on his sophomore feature, supernatural horror Salt Along the Tongue, tomorrow in Sydney with an all-female cast.

Laneikka Denne stars as Mattia, who after the sudden death of her mother, Mina (Dina Panozzo), is given no choice but to live with her estranged aunt, her mother’s identical twin. As Mattia grapples with the loss of her mother, a treacherous secret begins to unfurl, threatening her life. From beyond the grave, Mina possesses her daughter in an attempt to protect her from the same fate that befell her and find reconciliation with her sister, using food as a gateway.

The film, produced by Bloodshot Pictures, also stars Mayu Iwasaki, Maria De Marco, Caroline Levien, Olga Olshansky, Helen Vassiliadis, Nicole Toum, Liz Lin, Saroni Roy, and Rita Kara.

“Family and food – two things usually associated with love and togetherness, but in Salt Along the Tongue, are associated with trauma and possession. Salt Along the Tongue was written out of necessity – a need to explore familial bonds, secrets, and guilt, especially through the lens of my Italian heritage,” said Malfitano.

“To me, there are few things more frightening than knowing the truth but not being believed. This is a love letter to my mother, all mothers, told by way of food, superstition, possession, and ghosts.”

The screenplay was a semifinalist in the American Zoetrope contest judged by Francis Ford Coppola in 2021.

Daniel Pollock produces alongside Malfitano and Kristen Settinelli, with the crew including director of photography Susan Lumsdon, production designer Thom Muir, costume designers Tess Torrisi and Victoria Perry, casting director Melissa Brattoni, 1st assistant director Mikaela Franco, makeup/SFX artist Reza Eimanijo, intimacy coordinator Trish Speers, and composer Ola Turkiewicz. 

“As a woman with a Greek and Italian background, I grew up with a family steeped in strong traditions and visions, so it’s amazing to see a film utilise these elements to explore a spiritual delirium rarely seen in the genre,” said Settinelli.

“Parish has managed to write something that frightens you not through jump scares, but rather ideas that crawl along the spine, and does so in a way that delves thoroughly into the female experience. It also makes you want to give your mum a big hug at the end of it!”

Malfitano’s first feature, Bloodshot Heart, premiered as part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival’s online edition in 2020, before being screened to live audiences at Sydney’s Ritz Cinema and Melbourne’s Lido Cinemas as part of Fantastic Film Festival Australia.

Salt Along the Tongue aims to be ready for a 2024 festival run, and will be seeking a broader theatrical and streaming release later that year. The producers are continuing to look for post-production investment.