Pop Culture at its Best

Ethiopia’s first post-apocalyptic sci-fi feature ‘Crumbs’ demands to be seen

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Miguel Llansó
Miguel Llansó
2015, Spain / Finland / Ethiopia

According to writer-director Miguel Llansó, Crumbs was created mostly on circumstance and coincidence which might explain why the film seems constructed as an assortment of random images and confusing scenes. But don’t let that scare you: Ethiopia’s first post-apocalyptic sci-fi feature (spoken in Amharic) is a technically stunning and emotionally wrenching directorial debut. There’s little narrative so to speak, but Crumbs does feature an eccentric love story and a dash of politically charged surrealism.

The film takes place in a distant wasteland and follows a physically malformed Candy (Daniel Tadesse) who resides in a rundown bowling alley with his girlfriend Birdy (Selam Tesfaye). Tired of his day-to-day routine salvaging and bartering artifacts from bygone civilizations, he embarks on a quest to find a prophetic “witch” in hopes that he can meet Father Christmas and ask the mythical figure about a mysterious long-dormant UFO that’s been hovering in the sky. Candy thinks the spacecraft somehow ties into his destiny and believes he may be some sort of saviour.

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Throughout his journey, Candy crosses paths with numerous unexpected obstacles and people, including Nazis riding on horseback and a rather hostile Santa Claus. This is a land where people spend their days scavenging random remnants of late 20th-century pop culture and worship them like religious artifacts. A necklace made with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure is a treasured relic and a vintage Michael Jackson’s Dangerous LP is a sacred object. Stephen Hawking, Justin Bieber and Superman are considered Gods and Candy and Birdy both pray to a framed photograph of Michael Jordan. In this world, one man’s garbage is truly another man’s treasure. By taking such symbols and American idols out of normal everyday context, Crumbs lovingly pokes fun at our modern-day obsession with popular culture. We are a generation who base their world views and ethics, not on great sages of the past, but the heroes in media. And in the world of Crumbs, the major religions of the world have all disappeared and have been replaced by something even more absurdist than the extremes of our current day.

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Crumbs is an extraordinary indie film, full of sharp inventive detail and photographed with widescreen panoramas that capture the startling beauty in the Ethiopian vistas. Israel Seoane’s 2.35:1 wide-screen cinematography favors a muted, desert-like palette in the country’s sunbaked far north ghost town of Dallol. There is also a touch of dark humour and playfulness in Crumbs coupled with a soft affecting soundtrack and a sinister organ score which calls to mind the best of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films. The $225,000 budget matches the results we see in Hollywood Blockbusters and the special effects (of which there is little) are expertly crafted. Llanso spins a strange, slow but absorbing parable on life and love in the guise of a sci-fi theme. More intriguing is how he provides fresh twists to what’s essentially a very familiar narrative.

Spanish filmmaker, Miguel Llanso manages to neatly compact many different themes, genres and sub-plots in what is best described as a mélange of Spaghetti western iconography and African spiritualism. Think District 9, WALL·E and Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil put into a blender and mixed with the surrealism of his fellow countryman Luis Buñuel. 

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Crumbs is a surprisingly moving parable of what we waste, and what we should cherish — and wrapped in a romance between a beautiful lady and an oddly enigmatic lead in Daniel Tadesse, who’s extraordinary performance makes this unlikely protagonist a true hero. In a way, Crumbs is also an idiosyncratic homage to The Wizard of Oz – a blend of old-fashioned storytelling and modern filmmaking. At a slim 65 minutes, Crumbs is well worth your time.

– Ricky D

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1 Comment
  1. Z says

    I’m pretty sure the director is Spanish rather than Mexican.

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