An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker

Senada is 31 and she lives in Poljice neighborhood in Lukavac municipality with her partner and two daughters. She is pregnant with her third child for approximately five months. Since she didn’t have health insurance, she does not go to the doctor’s. When she started bleeding, she goes to the hospital. The doctor told Senada that she needs an emergency surgery and she needs to pay 500 EUR. Without a health insurance card and without money, Senada returns home.


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  • ★★★½ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd

    Danis Tanovic's harsh docu-drama gives us a rare look at life inside the Roma villages on the fringes of Bosnia and Herzegovina society. This was the country's official entry for the Oscars making it past the first round of selection before failing to make the final cut. Made on a minuscule budget of €17,000 this is as low-key as it can get although it feels all the richer for it.

    Based on a real-life incident the director uses the actual people who suffered at the hands of this discrimination, making national headlines. Nazif is the iron picker, grafting day after day chopping up broken cars or trawling through piles of discarded rubbish on hillsides, collecting scrap iron to sell on. His pregnant wife Senada is mother to two lively young girls, Semsa and Sandra, all of whom live in their modest home.

    They head to the city hospital after the pains in Senada's stomach become unbearable only to be told she has had miscarriage. They presume help will be at hand to remove the foetus from her womb, instead face up to a brick wall of state bureaucracy. No insurance, no operation. Pay 980 Marks (£500) or head home. Their options are extremely limited with Nazif left desperately trying to find a solution.

    This intimate portrait of the lower-class in Bosnia is horribly empty and bleak at times leaving a family direction-less with no hope of an answer to a life and death problem. Nazif and Senada are obviously not actors so Tanovic doesn't attempt to fool us into thinking they are. His sparse narrative works better in the first half of the film where the rugged, cold landscape and mundane lives of these people are informed not by dialogue but the environment in which they live.

    Life in this part of the world is a slog, long and hard. One problem is solved before another rears its ugly head. The use of handheld camerawork maintains the social-realism, more importantly keeping us at close quarters with the family who we sympathise and care for during their plight.

    What the film does reinforce is the power and importance of community and family in remote villages such as these. They are left literally picking up scraps to survive, yet despite this the reliance on each other, through others only a step or two away from experiencing a similar disaster, restores a little faith in humanity. It's a shame the vast majority will overlook the film as it is a stripped down look at the basics all too easily taken for granted.

  • ★★★½ review by Mustafa Sejdinović on Letterboxd

    Nešto novo i drugačije. Teška i realna drama. Po istinitoj priči. Bez profesionalnih glumaca.

    Vrijedan gledanja

  • ★★★½ review by Juan Bacaro on Letterboxd

    Absolutamente desconsoladora. Aunque quizás no sea la mejor película de este último año es una gran historia que solo necesita de 70 minutos para dejarte completamente devastado.

    Rodada con un estilo que de inicio hace dudar si se trata de una ficción o de un documental, la desconsoladora "An episode in the life of an iron picker" arrasó en el Festival de Berlín de 2013. De ahí saltó a la fama.

    Es una cinta atípica y asfixiante, relatada con características y estética de docudrama que a más de uno le traerá a la memoria el movimiento Dogma 95. Y un dato más: los actores (que en realidad no lo son) se interpretan a si mismos.

    Si me dijeran que nombre los títulos más deprimentes que he visto durante el año, estos serían los documentales "Atlas", "Blood brother", "Narco cultura" y "Elena" y las ficciones "The selfish giant", "La jaula de oro", "Oslo, 31. august" y, sin pensarlo mucho, esta película.

    El director no es cualquier novato. Ganó el Óscar en el año 2001 con la genial "No man's land". Su nombre es Danis Tanovic. Dirigió también a Colin Farrell y a Paz Vega en una película llamada "Triage".

  • ★★★★ review by Kabir Omerovic on Letterboxd

    A slice of miserable life.

    A fix of Dogma and Dardenne brothers, this film offers a peak into the unfortunate realities of a country torn apart by war and poverty.

    It's a simple yet brutal account of how to survive in a world where there's no sign of a better future.

  • ★★★★ review by concorde on Letterboxd

    우리의 머릿속에서 영화의 자동차가 배우의 트로피로 치환되는 순간, 이 영화는 에이젠슈타인의 영역을 넘어 플래허티의 영역에 도달하게 된다.

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