Doccie review – Crumbs: Class, capital and bread

2014-10-05 15:00

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Crumbs is a local film that investigates the impact of the bread price-fixing scandal. Roger Young slices up the conversations

Crumbs: Toppling the Bread Cartel

Directed by Richard Gregory and Dante Greeff

South Africa, 2013


Crumbs, which was recently shown at the Tri Continental Film Festival, is not a particularly artfully made documentary, but it does not need to be.

At times controversial and at other times deeply personal, Dante Greeff and Richard Gregory tell the story of how whistle-blower Imraahn Mukaddam exposed price-fixing in the bread industry in 2007, and follows him all the way to the Constitutional Court, where he launches a class action suit against the companies to try to get the fines that were eventually levied against them to be used for poverty relief.

Mukaddam’s actions were eventually instrumental in changing the legal landscape of South Africa, and also ushered in a new law that made cartel activity a crime that could lead to jail time.

It is a vast and sweeping film that makes many points, connections and correlations, but it sometimes suffers because of the breadth of the discussion it is trying to have.

Interviewing lawyers, activists, food security experts and consumers, Crumbs paints a very bleak picture of South Africa’s food security situation, and balances it with a sort of piano solo optimism that sometimes feels too hopeful and too neat for the message to really sink in.

Conversations in the film are about corruption, colonialism, capitalism, class action lawsuits and structural violence, and they very neatly lay bare the links between the law, food security, cartels and the struggles of the poor.

Mukaddam’s story, that of a David fighting a Goliath, tends to take the film to a warm and fuzzy place, which leaves the audience feeling like the job has already been completed; that the fight for food security is won.

It is, however, a film that should be watched by people concerned with constant marginalisation of the food issue – Mukaddam’s story gives hope to potential Davids. And it is a film that should be watched by anyone who really wants to understand how rising food prices affect the poorest third of the population.

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