Movies We Like
There were three points of interest for me when hearing about Crumbs. I had yet to see an Ethiopian film, admittedly. It being a sci-fi film made it even more intriguing. Lastly, it is the debut feature film of Miguel Llansó, a Spanish filmmaker who previously directed several shorts and seems to have an affinity for journeys, both mentally and spatially. I suppose it's always refreshing to become aware of an up-and-coming artist for a cineaste. However, since it is an independent film, the limitations attached were given consideration and my expectations were not necessarily lessened but most certainly lenient to what is reasonable and pragmatic. Perhaps that stance allowed for such a surprising and enjoyable experience.
As made evident in my review of Children of Men, there lacks a personal interest for me in science fiction on a broad scale. The unrelatable plots and inadequate or non-existent social commentary often makes me feel like a moth fumbling around a bright light that fails to burn hot enough for me to combust. That being stated, films that successfully remind me of my own mortality and culture leave a most-welcome impression--even if they are sci-fi. While it is a Spanish-Ethiopian production, Crumbs is a bizarre and oft-hilarious tale of Western influence and its global permanence. A permanence that, in theory, cannot even be washed away by an apocalypse.
Our protagonist is Candy (Daniel Tadesse), a malformed and loyal man that encompasses the tender yet fairly pathetic aspects of ritual and paranoia. We first encounter him sneaking, then running, through a barren and somewhat volcanic wasteland--clutching a small artificial Christmas tree. It becomes apparent that he is evading a presence and is ridden with fear. Sure enough, makeshift bounty hunters dressed in Nazi uniforms are encountered throughout the land. The first he runs into also dons a gas mask and Mickey Mouse ears. He escapes unscathed and returns home to his beloved, Birdy (Selam Tesfayie). The two live in what was once some sort of entertainment center. Birdy uses items from the old world to make sculptures. The retrieval of the Christmas tree and risks involved to get it are signs of Candy’s love for her and willingness to be responsible for her happiness.
However, this return leaves much to be considered. The encroaching danger of the hunters concludes a shift in their fragile society. Old-world items that are discovered in the wasteland are treasures of personal value and perhaps charms of luck and prosperity, but they can also be used for barter and monetary trade. The hostility in gathering suggests some kind of social desperation, and Candy has heard rumors that a dormant hovercraft in the sky may soon become operable. When the two begin having nightmares that are laden with dark messages and the bowling machine in their home starts to turn itself on to reveal voices inside, these rumors are given a lot of weight. Convinced of a chance to improve their lonely existence and obtain a seat on the craft, Candy embarks on a dangerous journey to retrieve valuable items of the old world and find the one man still believed to make dreams come true: Santa Claus.
In print, the plot reads as something so ridiculous that it would be hard to follow. On the contrary, suspension of disbelief is not obtained by believability but rather by relatability. There wasn’t a moment when I uttered to myself, “...this is ridiculous and doesn’t make sense.” The reason being very simple; it is easy to believe an underlying message that rings true.
Throughout the film are these items, or “crumbs” as it were, of the old-world. These items hold a strong history and influence for the society we see in the film, and therefore give commentary to what they mean for us in reality. From a Michael Jackson LP and photo of Michael Jordan making a slam dunk, to action figures and toy weapons--most anything can be found. Sort of like in The Gods Must Be Crazy, the lasting impressions of these items is given weight by their history and influence, pre-apocalypse. Are celebrities not treated like deities? Don’t the toys children play with have an impact on their reason in terms of resolutions and roles? Crumbs not only treats these truths in a form of fantastical satire, but by doing so, leaves a bittersweet social commentary.
For fans of noise and experimental music, the score offers much to be desired. Atmospheric noise consisting of chimes, squeaky metal and crunchy footsteps is often (but not excessively) accompanied by well-crafted noise. The visuals, due to the lush or blazing landscapes and use of superb miniatures, were perhaps the biggest surprise and are indeed stimulating. If you’re looking for a newcomer to watch and would like an example of a provoking science-fiction film, I’d highly recommend keeping an eye on Miguel Llansó and watching Crumbs, which recently played at the L.A. Film Festival.