Skip to main content

The bitter taste of ‘freedom’

JEFF SAWTELL is moved by an honest Bosnian film about the economic degradation ushered in by ‘liberating’ capitalism

An Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker (12A)
Directed by Danis Tanovich

As Nato advances in Ukraine, Danis Tanovich’s film reminds us of the aftermath of their destruction of the socialist federation of Yugoslavia.

Set in Bosnia-Herzegovina it follows the fortunes of an impoverished Roma family eking out a living in the midst of capitalist devastation.

Based on a true story and featuring the real-life Nazif Mujic and Senada Alimanovic it’s a fictional film designed to resemble a docudrama.

It’s aptly called An Episode, since every day is almost identical, with Nazril salvaging metal from wrecks that he sells to the scrap-dealer to survive.

Meanwhile, his pregnant wife Senada spends her days doing housework and looking after their two daughters, only to be struck by crippling pain.

She has to terminate her pregnancy to avoid scepticemia but is refused medical attention because they haven’t bought private insurance.

No matter their urgency and despite the help of friends Nazril scraps his car for salvage money.

All the time, they pass by the cooling towers of the electricity company which has cut off their supply, making life even more intolerable.

Winter is setting in and they have neither heat nor light and each day pictures the pain of their desperation.

This is not just social realism writ large — it’s a political parable about a society destroyed where people pay the price of capitalist “freedom.”

At one point Nazril rages at the darkening sky: “Oh my God, why do you pick on the poor?”

Then, as most working class people know, it’s up to themselves to be sufficiently resourceful to survive in a community committed to helping its members.

Dismissed by cynics as a miserablist movie, it’s almost modest in illustrating the travails of survival in a world of plenty.

As capitalism fails and the drive to war becomes urgent, we’re reminded that capitalism survives on an austerity imposed on the many.

Our future dystopia?


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 12,781
We need:£ 5,219
5 Days remaining
Donate today