Love & Savagery (2009) Film. Director : John N. Smith




“Like falling in love, and then getting kicked in the face.” This quote, from the book of poems entitled “Love and Savagery” by Des Walsh, inspired a new film of the same name by John N. Smith. The year is 1969, the place is Ballyvaughan in Coiunty Claire, Ireland. Newfoundland resident Michael (Allan Hawco) is a good looking young man who is quite smart (he is a geologist), quite passionate (he really, really loves rocks), and quite deep (he writes poetry). He lands on the Irish coast in order to study the burren (rock formations), but he ends up studying the form of a young barmaid named Cathleen (Sarah Greene).

There are two problems here. First, Cathleen is about to enter a convent, so “none” is just about how much love ol’ Mikey-boy is going to get. Especially since, as a more rational-minded man, he doesn’t believe in Cathleen’s devotion to ancient religions. Michael finds grace and beauty in the tangible miracles of nature. Second, I didn’t buy for a second that this man would fall for this girl. For all of Michael’s charm, his wit, his looks, and his intelligence, why would he go for a rather pudgy barmaid with no personality to speak of, and no particular interests in life? We know exactly what she sees in him, but we never really discover what he sees in her. He never tells her, and the director never shows us. Perhaps the point here is that opposites attract; a fantastic guy can fall for a milquetoast girl if some unquantifiable chemistry is present.

Due to their differences, and to Cathleen’s future vocation, they soon agree not to be together. However, tension ratchets up as the non-courtship struggles to remain suppressed, with Michael holding back his feelings out of respect for Cathleen, and Cathleen holding back her feelings out of respect for her misplaced feelings of guilt. But they just can’t stay away from each other. There are no secrets in County Claire. Word travels fast in the small and very traditional town of Ballyvaughan. Michael isn’t the kind of guy to be told what (or who) he can or can’t do, and therefore he is soon in a mess of trouble. The townspeople discourage him from persuing Cathleen by beating the crap out of him. But as soon as he gives up, she gives in. Then the trouble really starts.

Well, long story short, Michael turns into a sniveling, helpless, needy, dolt. And really, fellas, we all ought to know that no woman really likes that very much.

It is hard to recommend a film when the central conceit (in this case the love between these two characters) feels disingenuous. However, “Love and Savagery” is actually a fairly strong film on several levels. The ancient Celtic landscape of County Claire is magnificently captured by cinematographer Pierre Letarte. It is also worth noting that both leads do quite believable jobs in their roles. We may not know why Michael loves Cathleen, but we do in fact believe that he does. As Cathleen, Sara Greene does a remarkable job portraying her conflicted emotions, and this is from a girl in her first role out of acting school (according to the director, who was present at the screening I attended). Secondary characters such as Cathleen’s uncle, and a local thug are memorable and layered (cast names unavailable). The film is tightly edited without much fat to it, except for perhaps during the last reel. A scene exists in which a friend of Michael’s is singing a soft love ballad in a Dublin bar. Fading to black at that point might have been a perfect ending, but the film adds an unnecessary coda that adds little of real importance.

A Band Called Death (2012) Film; Documentary – Biography – Music – Directors: Mark Christopher Covino, Jeff Howlett



Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, there was a band called Death. Punk before punk existed, three teenage brothers in the early ’70s formed a band in their spare bedroom, began playing a few local gigs and even pressed a single in the hoped of getting signed. But this was the era of Motown and emerging disco. Record companies found Death’s music – and band name – too intimidating, and the group were never given a fair shot, disbanding before they even completed one album. Equal parts electrifying rockumentary and epic family love story, A Band Called Death chronicles the incredible fairy-tale journey of what happened almost three decades later, when a dusty 1974 demo tape made it way out of the attic and found an audience several generations younger. Playing music impossible ahead of its time, Death is now being credited as the first black punk band (hell…the first punk band!), and are finally receiving their long overdue recognition as true rock pioneers.(Imdb)



By Rob Hunter on June 28, 2013

review band called death


Ask the average person on the street to name the city that saw its walls shake with the birth of punk music and odds are they won’t answer “Detroit.” Ask them to name the band who first mashed the raw and the melodic together to create punk music before the term even existed, and they most assuredly won’t say “Death.” And we won’t even bother asking if anyone knew that the forefathers of punk were African American.

But thanks to the new revelatory and inspiring documentary A Band Called Death, the truth behind the band’s nearly simultaneous birth and death may yet find them their proper place in music history.

There were four Hackney boys growing up in ’70s Detroit, but while the oldest kept himself busy in other ways, his three younger brothers developed a serious interest in music. Bobby, Dannis and David taught themselves bass, drums and guitar, respectively, and then set out to change the sonic landscape. Christened Death by David, their de facto leader, the trio recorded a demo tape only to see door after door shut in their face. For some it was the idea of Black musicians rocking out instead of going the Motown route, but for most it simply came down to the band’s name. As quickly as the flame was lit it was subsequently snuffed out again.

But like a phoenix, Death was destined to rise again, and when the internet came calling thirty five years later, what remained of the Hackney boys were ready.


“And it would happen every time we tell somebody, they’d say well what’s the name of the band, and you know we’d kind of [sigh] do one of those and then we’d tell them the name of the band. We’d get the same old reaction we expected to get. Rejection.”

Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett‘s film is essentially a story in two halves. We first meet Bobby and Dannis as they’re revisiting the street and home they grew up in, telling stories about their childhood and parents. The sons of a pastor, the boys were taught from early on about the importance of family in general and about supporting each other in particular. That lesson was carried into their attempted musical careers and was nowhere more apparent than in the issue of the band’s name. David had chosen it after the boys lost their father to a drunk driver (while their dad was rushing an injured man to the hospital), and while the pressures to change the name were immense and constant David never budged. Which meant his brothers never budged either. Not even an offer from soon to be legendary music producer Clive Davis could sway them, and unwilling to bend or conform the band’s demo tape fell into oblivion.

That the brick wall they faced was due more to their “shocking” name than anything else is both ridiculous and odd seen in the light of today’s world where we have bands with names like Cannibal Corpse, I Set My Friends on Fire, Goatwhore, and Death Cab for Cutie.

That first section is made eminently watchable thanks to the brothers’ charisma, positivity and contagious personalities. The oldest brother, Earl, recounts some familial anecdotes and chases each of them with the most honest laughter you’ve ever heard. The band dissolved quickly and quietly, followed by Bobby and Dannis’ spur of the moment move from Detroit to Burlington. The two changed musical styles, found minor success as a reggae band, started families and went on with their lives.

It’s the film’s second half where all of the magic happens. The details of Death’s rebirth in 2008 are best discovered by watching the film, but know that it involved dozens of complete strangers including college students, obsessive record collectors, and renowned musicians like Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins. Most surprisingly, and a source of much of the film’s heart and affection, the story also required the unwitting presence of Bobby’s own three sons. The eldest’s recollection of discovering that not only were his dad and uncles in a punk band but that their songs were now being played at underground parties is a smile-inducing joy to watch.

A Band Called Death‘s biggest fault is an uncontrollable one and therefore no real fault at all: it’s made repeatedly clear that David was the heart and driving force behind the band, and his absence here feels all the bigger because of it. He died well before the band’s music was rediscovered, but as Bobby recalls, David was always convinced that day would come.

There’s no such thing as resurrection in the real world, but through Death’s rebirth David has managed the next best thing. And in the age of the internet the Hackney boys can expect to be playing together for many, many years to come.


In the early 1970s, three teenage African American brothers–David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney–formed a band called Death and played “hard-drivin’ rock & roll”–really, a precursor to punk rock, pre-dating pioneering black punk band Bad Brains by about five years–across their hometown of Detroit. They didn’t get far–their only single rarely got airplay and the unreleased master tapes for their debut album sat unheard in a dusty attic in Detroit for nearly thirty-five years.

A BAND CALLED DEATH, directed by Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett, chronicles the Hackney brothers’ story, from their early years playing instruments purchased with a family insurance settlement in a cramped room in their parents’ house to the band’s rediscovery and eventual revival several decades after the band called it quits. It’s a story about family, faith, and a commitment to a singular divinely inspired artistic vision–one that took the world over thirty years to appreciate.

Now considered visionaries, Death never found any real success in their own time. They had a lot working against them: everyone hated the name (David’s refusal to change it cost the band a record deal); nobody understood their vision (a group of black kids playing punk was unheard of); radio DJs wouldn’t spin Death’s self-released 45 (they didn’t have a full-length record out and their music was overshadowed by the disco tsunami that swept the nation.) Eventually it became too much for the Hackneys to endure, and after several years of disappointment, Death broke up in 1977. “I honestly think that it was almost a wrong place at the wrong time scenario, unfortunately,” Covino said in an interview after the film’s premiere.

Years passed, and Death’s 1974 demos gathered dust in the Hackney’s attic. Bobby and Dannis moved onto other music projects while David struggled with alcoholism and eventually succumbed to lung cancer in 2000. But all of a sudden, word of the band’s only single–“Politicians in my Eye” b/w “Keep On Knocking”–spread over the Internet, and a couple persistent record collectors in complete awe of this history-changing discovery tracked down one of the very few original 45s and brought it to the attention of music historians, label owners, and punk fans all over the world. One night at an underground party, one of Bobby’s sons heard the record and immediately recognized his father’s voice. Then, as David had predicted so many years ago, the world did indeed come looking for those master tapes, and Death was resurrected over thirty years after their heyday. Indie label Drag City released their debut album …For the Whole World to See in 2008.

A Band Called Death is an incredibly thoughtful and compelling film, one of the best music documentaries to come out in years. Covino and Howlett tell Death’s story through archival footage, recent concert clips, and intimate interviews with the Hackneys and the megastar musicians in awe of them (Henry Rollins, Kid Rock, and Questlove sing Death’s praises). It gets tough to watch at times–you can feel the horrible pain Bobby still experiences when he recounts the Death episode and his brother’s death. But you can also feel his pride as he watches his sons play David’s old songs in front of an audience for the first time and see his happiness when he realizes how proud David would be that Death is finally getting their due. A Band Called Death is not to be missed–keep an eye out for another opportunity to catch this fantastic film.

by Justin Lowe

Detroit — renowned home of Motown — isn’t the first touchstone associated with punk rock, despite its distinction for producing Death, regarded as the first African-American punk band. While countless docs attempt to make the case for near-forgotten musicians, Death’s unique place in musical history and the fascinating turns the band’s story takes as it winds its way out of obscurity present a promising opportunity for a proactive theatrical or home-entertainment distributor.

The Hackney brothers – David, Bobby and Dannis – started out playing rock and funk as teenagers, rehearsing at their Detroit home with the encouragement of their parents. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper and The Who, oldest brother David started leading the band in the direction of harder rock and their sound gradually became more hardcore, taking on the characteristics of prototypical punk rock as the band adopted their fateful name.

Incredibly they secured a recording contract with their first demo tapes, laying down the tracks for their debut full-length “…For the World To See” in a Motor City studio in 1975. Ironically, the music world never heard the album in that incarnation, after their representatives failed to sell the disc to a distribution company. Arista Records’ Clive Davis did offer to release the recording, but only if the band changed their name, which David flatly refused to do. “If we give them the name of our band, we might as well give then everything else,” he reportedly told his brothers.

With their contract cancelled, the Hackneys attempted to self-distribute singles on 45s, but radio stations passed them over and with the pressing and marketing costs, the brothers were soon broke and forced to sell off their instruments. Bobby and Dannis relocated to Vermont and formed the successful reggae band Lambsbread, while David remained in Detroit, plagued by his demons and advancing alcoholism, dying of cancer in 2000.

Conventionally the narrative would wrap up with Death being rediscovered and promoted online by an avid record collector, but instead the film takes a couple more unlikely turns. With the master tapes that David gave Bobby for safekeeping, Drag City finally released “…For the World To See” in 2009 and after nearly 30 years of obscurity, people started giving the group some long overdue attention.

Although filmmakers Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino rely primarily on a series of generous and introspective interviews with Dannis, Bobby and other family members, along with archival photos and memorabilia, segments featuring Cooper, Henry Rollins and Kid Rock among others demonstrate Death’s visceral appeal. More than any other factor though, it’s the surviving Hackney brothers’ emotional and enthusiastic reminiscences that prove the most riveting material in the film, particularly their recollections of David and his central role in forming and guiding the band.

The film’s final twist, revealing how the band’s songs are being played live for the first time in decades, proves a moving testament to the enduring power of family ties and groundbreaking music.

A BAND CALLED DEATH tells at least three different stories, and all of them are earth-shakingly profound.  The first is historical:  The story of Death is a pivotal story in the history of punk music.  Death, a rock band in Detroit in the early 1970s, was only recently rediscovered by musicians and journalists, but they are tremendously significant.  Three of the four Hackney brothers, David (guitar), Dannis (drums), and Bobby (vocals & bass), were sons of a minister who originally played R&B music, but switched to rock n’ roll after witnessing the baroque showmanship of Alice Cooper and the go-for-broke musicianship of Pete Townshend.

Culturally speaking, some of the fascination surrounding Death concerns the not-insignificant fact that these were three young black men playing with energy and urgency in a typically white milieu.  Their sound was faster and louder than most rock n’ roll of the era, having far more in common with groups like Iggy & The Stooges and The MC5 than with rock bands like The Beatles or The Who, let alone The Isley Brothers or any other band whom America might have expected them to sound like.


Death was unprecedented and therefore they were difficult to classify at the time.  As Questlove from The Roots notes in the film, Death was doing The Ramones before The Ramones got around to it.  As Vernon Reid from Living Colour notes, there was no doubt in Death’s sound.  There was a confidence and a sureness to it.  As Bobby and Dannis Hackney, the surviving members of the band, tell it, this sense of purpose came from their younger brother David, who named the band, designed their logo, and wrote all the songs.  With humility that nonetheless sounds cogent and objective, Bobby and Dannis repeatedly credit David with the foresight, integrity, and creativity that powered the band.  All you have to do is listen to the music to hear that it has a fiery timelessness.  Bobby and Dannis suggest that the price tag on integrity can be expensive — David turned down a life-changing record deal because he wouldn’t buckle to pressure to reconsider the band’s name, which was off-putting to some but had tremendous significance to David.  More on that in a moment.

Documentary directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino juggle multiple stories and themes with tremendous acuity — A BAND CALLED DEATH is engagingly designed on a visual level, and it has a momentum to match the music soundtracking it.  Their film is relaying a footnote of major significance to American music history — Death’s music feels genuinely important in the grand scheme — and yet the film manages to track the human story with uncommon grace and power.  David Hackney is a powerful presence in the documentary, despite only appearing in still photographs and in recordings of his voice and music.  David was a troubled soul but by all accounts, a beautiful one.  He believed in the music he and his brothers were creating and he has been proved right on all counts by retrospect.  This is the second story the documentary tells, the emotional story.  After passing up the record company deal, the brothers put out a limited independent release of their songs, but Death never quite caught on and at some point they chose to move on.  Dannis and Bobby started a reggae band called Lambsbread, and David eventually succumbed to lung cancer.

Around five years ago, some crate-diggers (including Jello Biafra) started passing the scarce copies of Death records around.  Some of the songs hit the music blogs, at which point the New York Times came calling.  (This is where I, and many other music fiends, first heard the standout track “Politicians In My Eyes.”)  More amazingly, Bobby Hackney’s sons, Julian, Urian, and Bobby Jr., musicians in their own right, were so moved to hear their father and uncles on record playing some of the fiercest rock ever, and toured the country covering Death’s songs in a band called Rough Francis (a tribute to one of their uncle David’s nicknames).  I know I’m doing an inordinate amount of recapping here, but the point I wanted to make by doing it is that these are clearly wonderful kids, this is clearly a wonderful family.  I was so touched by this aspect of the movie — the emotion, the beauty of family.  Family will save you.  Family will redeem you.  Julian and Bobby and Urian brought their uncle David to victory ten years after he died.  What is more beautiful than that?  As Brian Spears, a simpatico record executive, points out in the film (and trailer), there just aren’t any other stories like this one.  It’s truly transcendent.

And that is the third of A BAND CALLED DEATH‘s stories — the spiritual side.  David Hackney named the band Death not to intimidate or to shock, as many may have assumed.  The band’s music was emphatic, but not aggressive.  David named the band Death with a redemptive goal in mind, seeing as how the notion of death carries such negativity in so many minds.  Essentially, he wanted the awesomeness of the band and the conspicuousness of its name to do nothing less than to frame the notion of death in positive terms.  Like birth, it’s a thing that happens to all of us.  Like birth, it’s an aspect of existence we have absolutely no control over.  David Hackney seemed to be a tormented genius, but he had an uncanny perceptiveness.  His brothers recount how he accurately predicted his own death, but also how he accurately predicted that one day the world would come looking for Death’s music.  He was right, and he was right.  At press time, Dannis and Bobby are back in the game and Death lives again. A BAND CALLED DEATH is a movie that communicates actual spiritual redemption.  It challenges your very perception of a natural occurrence, the end of life, and as such it has the power to inspire.  You don’t have to be religious to believe in that.



While attending the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash in 2009, I noticed the headlining band was called Death. That doesn’t make any sense, I thought. The only band I know called Death is a death-metal band and that band is no more. What’s going on here? I soon found out when the proto-punk band Death performed for one of the first times since 1977. By the end of the first song, the crowd was cheering its approval. Later as the singer of opening band Rough Francis joined them for a song, it was revealed he was the son of Death’s singer/bass player, Bobby Hackney. So a whole familial rock ‘n’ roll story unfolded during the course of a concert set. One of those rare times, when an audience knew absolutely nothing about a band at the beginning of the night and were bonafide fans by the end of the set.

band called deathIn the early 1970s, David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney, three African-American brothers from Detroit, wanted to replicate the hard-rock sound guitar sounds of Alice Cooper, Jimi Hendrix, and the Who. They formed a band and group leader David gave it the improbable name Death.  With their Mom’s blessing, the teens practiced three hours a day in a bedroom converted into a studio and subsequently recorded and shopped a demo.  By 1977, that dream was over – for a few decades anyway.

Filmmakers Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino documented the journey of the Hackney brothers in A Band Called Death, which premiered last month at the L.A. Film Festival. The band’s original demos from 1974 were released as For the Whole World to See in 2009 on Chicago-based Drag City Records. The filmmakers use a combination of interviews, archival clips, and most notably, footage of Bobby and Dannis returning to their family house in Detroit, revisiting their old practice space, kept intact by their Mom all these decades later.   We hear cassette tapes of David, the group’s prankster and visionary, pontificating and playing jokes on friends and family, and hear some of the band’s raw, pre-punk demos.

The music itself has that proto-punk, hard rock/punk rock sound of other Detroit bands of that era like the Stooges, MC5, and early Alice Cooper. Still, Death’s rediscovery has triggered praise from all types of musicians (Henry Rollins and Kid Rock are among the artists contributing commentary throughout the film.) Even in the early 1970s, the music execs who heard Death’s demo all agreed on the band’s talent, but their distaste for the name and the musical climate of the time quashed the band’s chances at success.  Clive Davis wanted to sign the band, but after David refused to change the name, the deal fell through. The brothers pressed 500 copies of a 45 RPM record – “Politicians in My Eyes” b/w “Keep on Knockin’” in 1976. The single gained little interest and the band called it quits in 1977.

Shortly thereafter, the brothers had relocated to Vermont and formed a gospel group. Dannis and Bobby still live in Vermont with their families. They’ve fronted a popular local reggae band, Lambsbread, since the early 1980s. David returned to Detroit with his wife in 1982, writing and recording until he died of lung cancer in 2000. Before he passed away, he told his brother Bobby to keep Death demos because “one day the world would come looking for it.”

And David was right. By the early 2000s, the Internet and record collectors were abuzz over sightings of the rare 45s and copies ultimately wound up in the hands of  a prominent record collector in Chicago. The young record collectors treated the Death single as more or less the holy grail of obscure rock records. And, more amazingly, Bobby’s son, Bobby Jr. (Rough Francis singer), heard one of Death’s songs at a friend’s party and recognized his Dad’s voice. It was the first time he had heard his Dad’s (and uncles’) former band.

Around the same time, a record collector bought one of the old DIY singles for $800. As word of the Death single spread through the indie music grapevine, Drag City and Mickey Leigh (Joey Ramone’s brother) and others contacted Bobby Sr. and after 35 years, Death got their record deal.

Writer/directors Howlett and Covino let the film unravel naturally, not forcing it into any particular direction or viewpoint.  A Band Called Death is not merely a documentary about music industry travails. This film is more about family bonds, perseverance, and where life’s never-ending twists and turns can lead.




La cara oculta (The Hidden Face) (2011) Film. Director: Andrés Baiz




This Spanish language thriller carries with it an air of a Guillermo del Toro backed project, and a lot of that is down to the score. Federico Jusid’s fantastic musical accompaniment to this brisk, spooky and surprising thriller more than recalls the tone of films like Julia’s Eyes (Los Ojos De Julia) and The Orphanage (El Orfanato) (both produced by Del Toro).  Yet while this film is not quite as accomplished as those efforts, it is far from sub-standard. Despite bearing all the signs we could be dealing with a spooky house or supernatural horror, the film takes a delightful twist midway. A twist so well worked and surprising it immediately eclipses any prior niggles – unless you have seen the far too revealing trailer!

This Colombian film must be doing something right, as it already has been remade by Bollywood as Murder 3. Director Andrés Baiz (Satan) has handled the film superbly and despite the odd crease in logic, has created a real mastery of suspense. For its 91 minute running time, you get excellent narrative value and Baiz manages to keep things coherent, mysterious and at times rather unsettling. The film is first and foremost a disappearance mystery and secondly a human drama/thriller. The film questions the extent of love and the consequences of our own personal tests of it.

The cast adds an authenticity to the proceedings too with very believable and very genuine characters. The writing has allowed for the darkest decisions of the mind to blend with the most foolish. Quim Gutiérrez is excellent as Adrián and gives the character a constantly changing perception. Especially when the film highlights his relationship with the disappearing Belén, a very impressive Clara Lago and his new girlfriend Fabiana (an equally appealing prospect inMartina García).

The Hidden Face may not be a scary film but is not meant to be; instead there is an unsettling coverage of this entire surprisingly deep journey. It is sad the film will not be attaining a big cinema release because while there are a few bumps along the way, they are not given the chance to become too serious. For a night in of gripping cinema, this is pretty much perfect. An intelligent thriller that sadly ends on a rather tepid note but a minute of a sour finish, cannot upset 90 minutes of good writing, build up and atmosphere. It may be forgettable next to more resonant Spanish language features; of which are becoming even more a constant but it’s a heck of a journey. Just DON’T watch that bloody trailer, which commits Dream House syndrome in spoiling the film’s main twist.



by Rich Cline 

With a relatively simple idea, this Colombian thriller builds almost unbearable levels of Hitchcockian suspense as a group of flawed people find themselves punished horribly for their mistakes. And filmmaker Baiz takes such a sleek, stylish approach that he draws us into the odyssey from each perspective, making it more harrowing by the minute.

It’s set in the capital Bogota, where Adrian (Gutierrez) has relocated from Spain to conduct the orchestra. But he’s struggling with the fact that his girlfriend Belen (Lago) has simply disappeared, and as he wallows in his loneliness he falls for barmaid Fabiana (Garcia). When she visits to his country home, she feels something isn’t quite right. And sure enough, we cut back to months earlier, when Belen became annoyed by Adrian’s constant flirting and plotted with the landlady (Stewart) to spy on him from a secret room in the house. But her plan didn’t go as intended, and now things are going to get a whole lot worse.

The film is a bundle of hints and suggestions that work together to create a marvellously oppressive atmosphere. There’s a snooping detective and a seductive violinist lurking around the edges, and the landlady has a Nazi past to make things even more intriguing. Meanwhile, Baiz packs the movie with tricky camera work, sudden jolts of thunder and darkness, a cleverly florid musical score, and even a pet dog that seems to understand things the characters don’t. All of this works together to obscure the fact that the story itself is rather superficial.

Aside from the twisty editing, the film isn’t actually that complicated. And the people are fairly one-note characters, although the actors make them sexy and engaging. Best of all is the way both Belen and Fabiana do something genuinely reprehensible, and yet we still root for them. By contrast, Gutierrez plays Adrian as a hapless guy whose relentless libido inadvertently causes all the chaos. In other words, this is a B-movie melodrama with first-rate production values. And by using every trick in the cinematic book, filmmaker Baiz has created one of the most enjoyably lurid thrillers in years.



By George Pavlou

A real grower, The Hidden Face turns out to be a pleasant surprise.

This is one of those movies that you really have to stick with, as if you can get past a sluggish opening then the rewards are there.

The set-up is quite simple – the film begins with our lead male, Adrian, being dumped by his girlfriend, only to immediately stumble into the arms of a good-looking barmaid, Fabiana.

Surprise surprise, they hit it off. After a few juvenile scenes of flirting and an unnatural comfort between the two new lovers, we get our first sex scene. Amid the frolicking, Fabiana delivers the line “I like this mirror” as she looks at herself. Little do we know how huge that is going to be.

The relationship between Adrian and Fabiana grows to the point where she has moved intoAdrian’s large empty house in the mountains. A perfectly clichéd setting for what was going to come.

Next up comes an inevitable extra layer. The police turn up while Fabiana is home with Adrian. He is asked about the disappearance of his girlfriend and remains calm but coy. Fabiana is not convinced but they continue to do the bad thing every other scene. The disappearance of Adrian’s ex-girlfriend is mysterious and we all saw how badly he took it.

Quim Gutiérrez playing Adrian is relatively one-dimensional. He played a potentially guilty character fine enough, but failed to grasp the fact his character had more than one plot-line on the go. Martina Garcia playing Fabiana is good at the lovey-dovey stuff and clearly had no issues getting her body out but was relatively GCSE at acting frightened.

Anyway, I digress; Fabiana starts to experience some supernatural goings on in the house and quite rightly tells Adrian she thinks the house is haunted. He puts her straight about it and they have sex again. Obviously.

And then comes the huge twist the movie was billed to have. Supposedly towards the end of the flick, for me the bigger of the twists was the middle one. I won’t go into what happens because I wouldn’t want to ruin the movie because it is, all things being said, actually a pretty good idea.

The director, Andres Baiz, does all he can to create the atmosphere of a thriller. And to be fair, I was thrilled after about 45 minutes when the first twist of the movie took place. I’ve got to be honest, up until then, it was all very clichéd. Girl goes missing, guy is heart-broken, guy meets new girl, police suspect guy, guy and new girl fall in love, potentially haunted house. Pretty basic stuff because we all think we know what is going on here.

This is a thriller that’s got it all. It may be a tad far-fetched, a bit out of the ordinary, you might even say a bit stupid. By no means up there with the best out there but I guarantee after the first 45 minutes of the film, no-one would be able to guess what was about to come. And that is the reason this film is worth the watch.

Big Bad Wolves (2013) Film.Directors: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado




A series of brutal murders puts the lives of three men on a collision course: The father of the latest victim now out for revenge, a vigilante police detective operating outside the boundaries of law, and the main suspect in the killings – a religious studies teacher arrested and released due to a police blunder.(Imdb)



5 December 2013 

This confidently handled horror-thriller from Israeli writer-directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado provides a somewhat glib retort to September’s ponderous Prisoners, adopting a queasily black-comic tone in three-hander involving a rogue cop, a suspected pederast, and the vengeful father of a dead young girl. We soon fear the worst, and are suckered into staying by some semi-clever delaying tactics: early exteriors concealing the fact that everyone’s heading towards a single-set torture dungeon, phone calls that dispatch the characters on wild goose chases just as fingernails are set to be extracted. The actors lend it a sick heft, and there are droll, region-specific footnotes – like the estate agent keen to sell the dungeon cheap as it backs onto Arab land – but one senses the sniggering film-makers playing variably funny games with our phobia of paedophiles, rather than having anything lasting to say about it.



 Frank Scheck


A driven cop and revenge-seeking father team up to deliver vigilante justice to an alleged child-killer in Big Bad WolvesAharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s grippingly suspenseful film, showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival. Featuring mind-bending plot twists and generous doses of mordant humor, this fiendishly clever Israeli thriller succeeds brilliantly on its own terms while instantly qualifying for a Hollywood remake.

Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza (An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker)(2013) Film. Director: Danis Tanovic



Nazif barely makes ends meet as an iron picker to support his family. He searches daily for scrap metal while his partner Senada tends to their home and their two young daughters. A third baby is on the way.

After a long days work, Nazif finds Senada laid up in pain. The following day, he borrows a car to drive her to the nearest clinic. The diagnosis is that Senada has miscarried and is still carrying her dead five-month old fetus. The condition is critical and Senada needs immediate treatment at a faraway city hospital.

Because she does not have a state-provided health insurance card, the hospital requests that Senada pay 980 Bosnian marks (500 euros), a fortune for a modest iron picker. Despite Nazifs begging, Senada is denied the crucial surgery and forced to return home to their Roma community in central Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For the next 10 days, Nazif will do everything he can to try and save Senadas life desperately searching for more scrap metal, seeking help from state institutions For the next 10 days, Nazif and Senada will be fully exposed to the callousness of contemporary society.(Imdb)



Danis Tanovic, director of the Oscar-winning No Man’s Land (2001), brings a shocking real story to the big screen with his latest film, An Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker. The film was a great success at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix for Tanovic and Best Actor Award for Nazif Mujic, as well as Special Mention for Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It feels like a personal film and the subject matter is clearly one that is dear to Tanovic’s heart.
The film is a micro-budget docudrama that carries important messages. Shot on handheld camera, viewers get to take a close look at a socially underprivileged Roma family in Bosnia and Herzegovina living in conditions that most of us would only experience through watching films, television news or documentaries.
The real-life members of the iron picker’s family all play themselves after being asked by Tanovic to take part in his film to retell their story: Nazif collects old scrap metal and sells them for money. His life is turned upside down when Senada falls ill but does not have a health insurance card or the required money to pay for the life-saving medical treatment.
Tanovic has treated the subjects of his film with respect and dignity. The iron picker’s family is impoverished but loving, and Kazif is particularly resourceful and calm even when facing desperate situations. The times when he says, “Lord, why do you always make the poor suffer” and, “it was better in the war” show him at his most emotional.
Most of the people living in the poor neighborhood, especially the gentle Kasim, are genuinely helpful. The medical professionals, in contrast, are portrayed as cold, heartless and seemingly untouched even with Kazif begging them to save his wife. “No payment, no surgery,” one doctor tells Kazif and Senada. There are hints in the film that there is a broader problem that certain communities in the country are denied their rights to basic welfare and medical treatment.
The main weakness of An Epidode In The Life Of An Iron Picker is that for a film that depicts such a life-and-death situation, it is surprisingly lacking in dramatic urgency. It is not hard to imagine the circumstances becoming more and more desperate for Kazif and Senada with every car trip they take to and from the health facilities, but there really is not a great deal of tension in the air. Perhaps this comes from the knowledge that Senada did not come to any harm because she gets to play herself in the film. In addition the filmmaker’s decision to focus on Kazif’s search for solutions to help his wife, rather than on her suffering and deteriorating health condition, has also made it harder for viewers to sympathize with the characters.
That criticism aside, this is an important story to share and Tanovic ought to be applauded for telling it to the world. At the beginning of the film, Senada tells Nazif that they have no firewood, and the film concludes with Nazif going home with a pile of firewood. So as the title of the film suggests, this is just an episode in the life of the iron picker. Life certainly goes on, and the fact that he and his family have managed to survive this crisis is simply a happy end to one chapter of their lives. It definitely does not represent the end of their difficulties stemming from racial discrimination and social injustice. One certainty the audience is left with is that Nazif and Senada will continue to bravely face whatever challenges life throws at them.

Director Danis Tanovic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, returns for his fifth feature film with a short, minimalist piece very much in the social realist vein, featuring a cast of non-professionals and a minimum of artifice. The plot’s focus on a harrowing personal ordeal spanning only a day or so, as a struggling poor Roma family bounce pinball-like from one compassionless and rickety bureaucratic agency to the other, is somewhat reminiscent of the 2005 Romanian film The Death Of Mr Lazarescu. Tanovic’s film went on to scoop the Grand Jury Prize win at the 2013 Berlinale, and lead actor Nazif Muji? also took home the Berlin Silver Bear for best actor for his semi-autobiographical role.

Uninsured Roma war veteran Nazif barely makes ends meet as an iron picker to support his family. Early on in the film we see him on the hunt for scrap metal as the harsh Bosnian winter sets in around his ramshackle house, while his pregnant wife Senada (Senada Alimanovic) tends to their home and their two young daughters. We see the hard work this scavenging involves, all splintered wood panels and jagged screeching metal, as cars, fridges and other detritus gets scooped up by Nazif and his brother, hefted into the back of their car, and driven down to the scrapyard. It is as if these poor people are having to consume their own surroundings to survive (later in the film Nazif will have to cut up his own car to pay for medical services, begging the question of how far this way of life can go on before these disenfranchised people have used up all they have left.)

Coming home after a long day’s work, Nazif finds Senada laid up in pain. When she doesn’t improve, he has to drive her to the nearest clinic, where the diagnosis is that Senada has miscarried her five-month old fetus. Senada needs immediate treatment at a faraway city hospital, but a long road trip there only results in Nazif going up against bureaucratic obstruction. Neither he nor his wife have state-provided health insurance, meaning the hospital requests that Senada pay 980 Bosnian marks (500 euros) for the essential surgery.

With this sum a preposterous amount of money to ask from for an iron picker, Nazif is forced to return home to the poverty-stricken Roma community to try to find some other way to either get an insurance card, or get the money. As institutional doors close in their faces, and large, ominous factory chimneys belch smoke impassively in the distance, Nazif and Senada cut increasingly desperate, tiny, shuffling figures as the days wear on and they shuttle back and forth from one potential lifesaver to another.

Drawing from real life events, Tanic’s docudrama gains its power from the emotionally stirring scenario and all-round naturalistic performances, which feel infused with greater honesty given that a version of this nightmare has been played out in real life. The strikingly bleak landscapes also charge the atmosphere with doom – this is a land where even the ground, snow covered and littered with the detritus of once-useful household goods, looks as though it has turned its back on the people.

An unashamedly angry picture, yet one that also celebrates the solidarity and courage of a oppressed minority in the face adversity, Tanic’s latest is ultimately a tad too heavy handed and could have done with an injection of a certain urgency to truly take us into the heart of the emotional storm this family have been suddenly tipped into. Tanic might keep the camera up close to his cast in the verite style, but he also keeps us the viewers too much at arm’s length.

Timothy Petersson

An episode in the life of an iron picker directed by Danis Tanovic is a tragic story about the hardship of life in an remote village with a high poverty rate in Bosnia Herzegovina.

The film follows Nazif (Nazif Mujic), an unemployed worker getting by through iron picking and the impact of poverty on his family. One soon learns that his wife Senada (Senada Alimanovic) has a miscarriage however due to their socioeconomic status the family has no means to afford the surgery which she urgently needs, a compelling battle of time instigates and how family father Nazif takes great measures to assure her health.

Director Danis Tanovic certainly displays great criticism to the adhering healthcare system in Bosnia Herzegovina through his film, and one should consider this to be the foundation of the whole film.

Although scripted the entire film is filmed documentary style, handheld camera shots from beginning to end, and furthermore when looking at the editing, it’s continuity is very thick, meaning almost every action of the protagonist is captured. The lighting is solely natural throughout and additionally there is no soundtrack included to convey any mood, everything is left as it is, natural.

Presumably very conscious decisions made by Danis Tanovic as he entirely tries to convey the film as a documentary. There Is no doubt that he was not trying to render the film as extraordinarily tragic as he could have with the help of production design, cinematography that could have highlighted the dismay and tragedy even further or even by adding a pretentiously gloomy or sad soundtrack. He simply decided to depict the reality and he does so remarkably well.

“An episode in the life on an iron picker” is in regards to my own opinion a very powerful film, it does not adhere to conventional cinema in many ways and it shouldn’t.  I would even make the claim that if the director would have employed more conventional filmmaking techniques, more of everything, the film would have failed to convey the message the way it does now. By chance it would not have been as well conceived, and furthermore would have been lost in the ocean of films and maybe wouldn’t even have made it to the AFI film festival.