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Interview: Danis Tanović • Director

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Directing is a view of the world


- An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker had its world premiere in the Competition of the Berlinale and won the Jury Grand Prix and the Silver Bear of Best Actor for Nazif Mujic.

Interview: Danis Tanović • Director

Oscar-winning Bosnian director Danis Tanović's new film An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker [+see also:
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had its world premiere in the Competition of the Berlinale. Tanović speaks about making of the film with non-professional actors and his anger at the lack of system in the Balkans.

Cineuropa: How did you find about the story of Nazim and Senada and why did you decide to make a film with them playing themselves?
Danis Tanović
: A year ago I read a newspaper article about what happened to them and I got pissed off. I went there and met Nazif and Senada and at first I didn't know what to do. I just knew I wanted to make a film of it, but not what kind of film. The third time I went back there I had this crazy idea and I told [producer of the film] Amra Bakšić Čamo, the only way to do this film is for them to play themselves, because for this kind of story it does not make sense to wait to get funding for a regular fiction film. We applied to the Bosnian fund and we got €17,000 and this was basically the budget. I went there with a small crew made up of friends who I worked with on my previous films and they agreed to do it for minimal wages.
This whole film came from my instinct, I wasn't planning it. I really believe in instinct. After all these years I realized that directing is actually your view of the world. You can teach anyone the basic technicalities, but everything else is your own feeling which you either have or not. And this is how I see the world.

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Did you have a screenplay?
No. I asked Nazif to tell me the story and I was writing down the moments that seemed interesting for the film. Then every day we basically re-enacted what had happened. There was no screenplay, we were just going day by day through their life. There are no actors in the film, no production design, no special effects. Only the two doctors are not those exact doctors who were there in real life, for obvious reasons, but they are actual doctors too.

How did you work with non-professional actors?
I was telling them not to act, because they are not equipped to. Every shot that is in the film was the first or the second take. The third time they already start "acting", that's the end of it. The non-professionals can bring to the film something no actor can.

An anger towards the system or lack of it and circumstances that we are forced to live in is even more obvious in this film than in numerous other films coming from the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
The only system that I can see exists in Slovenia, to a certain degree. Everything else are just tactics of survival, instead of a strategy to find a way out. No one wants to admit it, but the system is falling apart. All these countries are in deep debt, and soon the devil will come to take his own. He already has, for this lowest income category. They are the first to go down when bad times start.
I really love my country but I am not at all happy with what's going on. I feel both angry and sad. The only thing that is saving us is kindness of the people. When that's gone, we're done with. The reason I made this film is that I realized these people are kind and loving. We are not in touch with the Roma population, it comes down to them begging money from you in the street or washing your windshield. I've never before went to a Roma village and spent some time with them. A good friend of mine, when he saw the film, he told me he'd never look at them the same way. That is the most important thing to me about this film. 


international title: An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker
original title: Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza
country: Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Slovenia
sales agent: The Match Factory
year: 2013
directed by: Danis Tanovic
screenplay: Danis Tanovic
cast: Nazif Mujic, Senada Alimanovic, Semsa Mujic, Sandra Mujic

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2013 Silver Bear – Jury Grand Prix
Silver Bear for Best Actor (Nazif Mujic)
Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013 
Sydney Film Festival 2013 
Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2013 
Jerusalem Film Festival 2013 
New Horizons Film Festival 2013 
Sarajevo Film Festival 2013 
Film by the Sea Film Festival 2013 
Toronto International Film Festival 2013 
Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival 2013 
London Film Festival 2013 

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