Berlinale 2013 – Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza (An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker)

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Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza / An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (Competition)
Bosnia and Herzegovina / France / Slovenia 2013, 75 min
Language: Bosnian
World Sales: The Match Factory

Director: Danis Tanovic
Cast: Senada Alimanovic, Nazif Mujic, Sandra Mujic, Semsa Mujic

JURY GRAND PRIX (Silver Bear)
AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR (Silver Bear): Nazif Mujić
PRIZES OF THE ECUMENICAL JURY: Special Mention

A masterpiece of social realism
Oscar and Golden Globe winner Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land) adapts a news story into a compelling docu-drama, persuading the article’s sources to re-enact their health-care ordeal on screen.

Nazif Mujic and Senada Alimanovic are a loving couple with two lively daughters, a happy family despite the stress of poverty. Nazif (who won the Silver Bear for Best Actor and could double for George Clooney) poaches trees from a neighboring forest to heat his home and demolishes cars for scrap metal, earning his share of 153 Bosnian Marks per car. Senada keeps a tidy home, washing clothes in a plastic baby tub, cooking chicken and potatoes, and kneading dough for a mouth-watering bread and cheese dish that gives the family a convivial meal together before the health disaster strikes.

Returning from work, Nazif finds Senada bleeding and in pain. Rushing to the hospital, they learn Senada has miscarried and urgently requires surgery. They have no medical insurance, so the hospital demands 980 Bosnian Marks (about 670 US dollars) for the operation. Unable to pay, Senada and Nazif return home.

For nine cold winter days, Nazif desperately searches for more scrap metal while seeking help from neighbors, relatives, and social aid agencies to save Senanda’s life.

Nazif, we learn, fought in the Bosnian war and lost a brother in the fighting. Yet he has no government pension, child benefit, or health insurance.

Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza is a masterpiece of social realism, shot on a reported budget of USD 23,000. The film spares us romantic cliches of “Gypsy life” to show a family of limited means rising to meet a health crisis. Potential for great interest to US audiences, many of whom share this family’s vulnerability to unexpected, potentially bankrupting health crises.