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An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker – Movie Review

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An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker- Review by Frank L.

Directed by Danis Tanovic

Cast: Nazif Mujic, Senada Alimanovic, Semsa Mujic

Nazif is a member of the Roma community who lives in a small village not far from an industrial city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The village is a collection of dwellings built of bits and pieces. His home is a flimsy shack which has a wood fired stove, a television and very few other comforts. It is winter. He has a wife and two young daughters who are just kids. His wife is pregnant. His means of providing for his family is by breaking up redundant vehicles for scrap. If the stove needs logs he goes out into the neighbouring woods and saws a branch, carries it back on his shoulder and chops it into logs so that the stove has fuel.

The amount he receives from a scrap dealer for the scrap is a pittance. Nazif and his family exist. They exist on the edge. Any emergency tips them closer to disaster. Tanovic relates one emergency with which Nazif must cope.

Tanovic was studying at the academy of Performing Arts in 1992 in Sarajevo when the siege of that city ended his studies. He joined a film crew attached to the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina and during the following two years he filmed various dangerous missions. In late 1994 he went back to study but now in Brussels. In 2001 he completed in No Man’s Land, his first feature film, which centred on the war that he had endured. It won the award for Best Screen play at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Tanovic in Iron Picker highlights the deprived world of the Roma and the odds that are stacked against them. It is a poignant polemic against the injustices which they endure.

At all times Tanovic is measured in relating the story but there is a suppressed anger. It is just Nazif’s struggle within his own country which ostracizes him and his family and which he must bear as a poor man from which neither he, nor his wife, his wife’s family nor the children have any realistic prospect of escaping. There will be many more crises or episodes to be endured. Tanovic has created an impressive piece of work; it is seriously good.

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