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.