An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker
An Episode in the Life of an Iron PickerOriginal Title: Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza
Director: Danis Tanović
Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Slovenia, Italy | Bosnian
Subtitles: Arabic, English
The title sounds like a Communist-era piece of agitprop, but don’t let that fool you: Danis Tanović’s humanely drawn, angrily felt film about a Roma family denied medical treatment has an obvious bone to pick, yet there’s nothing crude about the message. Made on an astonishingly low budget (reportedly $23,000), An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker is one of the most directly honest cinematic responses to an injustice in recent memory, providing a welcome rejoinder to the false notes and manipulative sentimentality of big studio “issue' movies.
Like many of those star-studded films, Iron Picker is based on a true story, but here Tanović cast the real protagonists, whose directness brings an authenticity alongside extra-textual emotions that more than make up for their lack of professional training. Senada has a miscarriage; her husband Nazif takes her to the hospital, but the doctors won’t perform the necessary procedures unless they pay the bill. The impoverished couple returns home, but Senada’s hemorrhaging doesn’t stop and in desperation they have to figure out how to get her medical attention.
Tanović read about the incident in 2011 and was immediately inspired to make this movie, laying bare the shocking state of profiteering health care along with reflexive prejudice against the Roma. The director dispenses with the colorful trappings usually hauled out for Gypsy films—no wild music or magical realism—just the narrative of a loving family coping with poverty until the day when things really turn black. Winner of "the Silver Bear" at the Berlin Film Festival.