Actors come to life in Tanovic’s flick, literally

Danis Tanovic’s Bosnia-Herzegovina film An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker made on a shoe string budget of euros 17,000 (Rs 12.5 lakhs) with an eight member crew including the director, shot entirely with non-actors and on actual locations received standing ovation in Berlin. When the director is an Academy Award and Golden Globe winner for his debut feature No Man’s Land, it is no wonder that he pulled off this feat. The cast and crew worked free to realise this film, he said.

The minimalist film narrates the story about the poverty and sufferings of the small Roma community in Bosnia Herzegovina, who are facing racial discrimination. A poor Roma woman, who suffers miscarriage and her husband knocks on several doors of hospitals and institutions to get her medical attention to save her life. Ultimately, they are left with using the medical insurance card of a relative. Living on meagre earnings from picking iron scraps, the poor man is left with no other alternative to break his own car and selling it in scrap to pay for the costly post surgical medication.

Danis Tanovic said that when he saw a small news item about what happened to the couple, he was upset and asked one of his friends to verify the story. Then he visited the Poljice village and spoke to the couple, Nazif and Senada. He decided to make a film on this story as the subject is serious and needs to be told to the entire world immediately. He decided to shoot the film on digital camera with the real people instead of actors to cut costs and asked the couple to reenact their experience. He had no script or screenplay and every scene was developed on the basis of narration by Nazif, Senada and other main players like Karim. The film captures eloquently the pain and discrimination of the Roma community in their actual setting.

The South African-German co-production Layla Fourie by Pia Morais deals with Layla, a single mother and polygraph technician. On her way to a new assignment, Layla knocks down a man. She tries to get medical attention but on the way he dies. She buries him in a dump yard and carries on with her journey and life. What follows is a life of lies and deceit and Layla is caught in this web.

The film develops like a political thriller hinting at the tensions of fear and distrust between communities that continues to haunt South Africa. It is also the story of a single mother trying to work hard for the future of her little son. She wants to protect him and keep him away from the evils of the society, just like turning his face away at an accident/shootout site. The irony of the lie detector forced by circumstances to turn into a liar herself and the greatest unhappiness and discomfort this changing role is inflicting on her conscience and her young son provides the platform for the thriller to play out well. The sad eyes of Rayna Campbell as Layla Fourie and the restraint she displays in her role haunts us throughout the film.

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