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Review: Killing Crabs


- In Omar A Razzak’s third feature, awarded at Las Palmas and Málaga, a summer spent awaiting Michael Jackson provides the backdrop to a story that is both entertaining and emotional

Review: Killing Crabs
Paula Campos and Agustín Díaz in Killing Crabs

In Killing Crabs [+see also:
interview: Omar Al Abdul Razzak
film profile
, a film written, directed and produced by Omar Al Abdul Razzak, a boy strikes up a conspirational, protective and father-son-like relationship with an old sea dog. However, the latter is not an affable or cheerful man wishing to educate the kid; rather, he lives in a cave dwelling, suffers from flesh wounds and carries more alcohol in his veins than blood. This film, which picked up two awards in the Zonazine section of the most recent Málaga Film Festival, has just taken home the Best Feature Award from the Canarias Cinema strand of the 22nd Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival (see the interview with the director).

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As a matter of fact, it’s on another island in this archipelago, Tenerife, where the action of this movie takes place. There, in 1993, they were awaiting the arrival of Michael Jackson, as if he were the Messiah, because he was due to pay the isle a visit to put on one of his lavish concerts. It was an event that turned the monotony of daily life upside down for the local families, who dreamed of meeting this pop idol. And that’s exactly what it’s like for the main characters in Killing Crabs: a daydreaming single mother to a teenage girl, who is in equal parts mature and impish, and a curious lad. They are joined by the kids’ grandmother, whose home is in jeopardy because of the relentless steamroller of tourism-related speculation.

And so, with great sensitivity and affection for his characters, Razzak capitalises on a high-profile news story to cast his net over thorny subjects that are hinted at within a storyline that oscillates between entertainment and pure emotion: the sudden incursion of early maturity, the search for father figures, the paradoxical rejection of whatever comes from the outside, youthful complicity, incipient illegal immigration and fear of tourism.

With dialogue that is as natural as 99% of the performers (Sigrid Ojel is the only professional actress among the cast), locations that are far from picture postcards, and a setting cluttered up with CRT televisions, the – ever so slightly melancholic – story hinges on the points of view of the very young lead characters (played by 13-year-old Paula Campos and eight-year-old Agustín Díaz), at the same time serving as a love letter to the island of Tenerife (where Razzak grew up), an exaltation of the freedom of childhood, which kids used to enjoy in the time before the digital revolution, and a reflection on the contradictions of the human race.

Constantly paying attention to detail, the Spanish-Syrian filmmaker has become one with his characters, creating scenes and dialogues of such authenticity and realism that they verge on documentary (Razzak made his directorial debut in 2014 with the non-fiction film Paradiso), featuring scenes of home life, open-air celebrations and boat rides, while in the background, the threat of rampant capitalism ceases to be a mere looming spectre. In addition, he makes excellent use of the highly expressive face of newcomer Paula Campos, who won a well-deserved award at the Málaga Film Festival.

Killing Crabs is a production by Spain’s Tourmalet Films in conjunction with IJswater Films (Netherlands). It will be released in Spain on 26 May, courtesy of Filmax, which is also in charge of its international sales.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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