Written and Directed by Miguel Llanso, “Crumbs” is an Ethiopian made Mystery/Fantasy, Sci-Fi film (perhaps the first of its kind) presented in Amharic, a language I’d never even heard of before. The film follows the adventures of a mild-mannered man named Candy (played by Daniel Tadesse) who lives a mundane existence with his wife Birdy (Selam Tesfayie), in a post apocalyptic civilization. When an arm-shaped spacecraft that’s been hovering in the sky for years suddenly shows signs of activity, Candy sees opportunity and sets out on a journey of self discovery. Along the way he seeks guidance from a Witch and happens upon a rather dogmatic Santa Claus, all the while ultimately searching for the place he feels he belongs. The film also stars Tsegaye Abegaz, Shitaye Abraha, Girma Gebrehiwot and Mengistu Berhanu.
As an avid movie watcher, every once in a while you’ll happen upon a completely random and unexpected film, in this case that film is Miguel Lllanso’s, Crumbs. It’s the first Ethiopian made film I’ve had the opportunity to see and it’s definitely something. Running just 68 minutes in length, Crumbs is an experimental and truly surreal, abstract piece of cinema that while non linear, still manages to be intriguing. Miguel builds a unique atmosphere with a number of gorgeous establishing shots of the desolate landscape. Within it, hand-made machines slowly eroding that convey the disparity of beauty and sorrow. Our lead character Candy is often welding and or breaking down solids and scraps to use in resourceful ways. Candy’s adventure sets up even more establishing shots and fresh places for him to navigate. Miguel stated in some additional notes on the Dvd Extras, that the film had no proper script. He had the cast in mind and relied on improvisation and let the story play out, as he and everyone involved discovered new places and new experiences. Now I can’t say that’s the best way to go about shooting a film that ultimately needs to entertain audiences, but I can respect the unconventional process behind it.
Although much of the film is spent following Candy walking around, discovering things or verbalizing his disconnected thoughts, it’s Tadesse himself that manages to hold your interest. I had a hunch about who or what Candy might have been (it’s still just that haha) regardless, in the end it didn’t really bother me because I found him compelling all the same. I don’t know if it’s just because he’s small in stature, or because he’s clearly suffering from a sort of disfigured bone structure but I felt drawn to his story. It was also mentioned in Miguel’s notes that Daniel comes from a theater background and this was his first full length feature, so kudos on that. The original and raw architecture is to be marveled at, especially during the second half of Candy’s trek. In fact, all the “set design” and I use that term loosely because this was all on location (as far as I’m aware) is bold and creative, or to be more precise the attention to detail in the set dressing is. The other worldly score used was reminiscent of some of Kubrick’s early work and the overall industrial soundtrack comparable with David Lynch’s mind-bending “Eraserhead”. I’d find it difficult really analyzing the script properly because of the unorthodox style but what I will say is that I liked the random moments of humor. The “Shop Owner” is constantly referring to “Mologan Warriors”, who at one point either owned or manufactured everything in his store, apparently making it worth much more in this new world.
Like I said, Crumbs is one of those rare films that can be difficult to summarize properly. Much like a piece of artwork, different people see different things. There’s no singular way to take this, it is what it is and that’s bound to be something different for each individual. Most of my criticisms are surrounding the amount of unanswered questions, anything that’s made without a screenplay or a straight narrative is going to raise plenty of them, as is the case here. The following are just some of the questions I had while watching Crumbs. What was the relevance of the Nazi soldier? Or for that matter, any of the other multiple dwellers populating the environment? Was the Nazi just a random somebody who collected items of worth from the past world? Or was he a sinister being after Candy, who knows? Although I liked most of the setting, the continuity and placement of different locations felt off. In the beginning, we’re led to believe Candy and Birdy live in an abandoned school but it seems odd there’s a bowling alley in close proximity. Near the couple’s bedroom there’s school related supplies, like lockers, desks and remnants of what looks like a music room. I’d assume across a vast landscape like the one they inhabit, there’d be more distance between geographic landmarks.
The way of life for citizens on the land is buying and selling goods and relics from the old world in exchange for money. People deal in various treasures, such as Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” record, a teenage mutant ninja turtle figure and a plastic warrior sword crafted by Mattelo (supposedly used by an ancient warrior, yet we all know it’s a toy manufacturer). Idols like Stephen Hawking and Justin Bieber are revered and I’m not sure why? On the first plot point, what are the people then buying with the money they make? On one occasion Candy can be seen eating something but other than that no one ever drinks anything, nor are they seen buying anything, just selling, which I thought was a little strange. It begs the question if they’re not using money to purchase food or water for survival what’s it all for? When Candy meets Santa (yes you heard me right), he mentions something about wanting to get on the mysterious spaceship but it’s never made clear how one goes about doing that, Who to see or What to pay etc. Speaking of our random Santa, Why is Birdy hearing his voice traveling through the bowling alley’s conveyor belt? What message is being delivered each time a bowling ball comes back that clearly wasn’t bowled? Crumbs raises so many questions and gives few answers, if you think it sounds incoherent it’s because it is.
There’s no denying Crumbs is a truly unique and peculiar film without direction. I haven’t seen something so conceptual since the aforementioned Lynch film, “Eraserhead”. So what does it all mean? Honestly, I can’t say but I have my suspicions. I could try to describe what went on during this random 68 minutes but chances are it will be a totally different experience to what you or anybody else will see. There’s beauty, bleakness and oddball humor on display in Crumbs and Daniel commands attention in this luring role. I like the randomness of it all to a certain extent, plus the secondary characters that occupy the land are interesting to say the least. On the flip-side, the experimental style is sure to completely divide audiences, something I’m sure Miguel knows but it does make for a memorable experience in one way or another. More questions go unanswered than not, most if not all the dialogue is bewildering and I couldn’t decipher any subtext from the sudden ending. Make of it what you will but I still enjoyed the film if for no other reason than the freedom associated with it.
My rating for “Crumbs” is 5.5/10