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18 Feb 13

Bosnia Welcomes Prize-Winning Roma Actor

Crowds gathered at Sarajevo airport to greet Nazif Mujic, voted best actor at the Berlinale film festival for his role in Denis Tanovic’s ‘An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker’.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN Sarajevo
  Nazif Mujic with his Best Actor award at the closing ceremony of the Berlinale on February 16 / Photo by Gero Breloer, AP

The arrivals hall at Sarajevo airport was packed with people waiting to welcome Mujic home on February 17, after he was named best actor at the 2013 Berlinale.

Bosnian director Tanovic's documentary drama 'An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker' also won the Jury Grand Prix at the film festival in the German capital.

The film is based on a true story, played by real-life protagonists, a Bosnian Roma family waging an uphill struggle against poverty.

“This is ours,” Mujic told reporters at the airport, holding up the two Berlinale 'Silver Bear' prize statues.

“This is my first time participating in a festival like this,” he added. “I would like to thank my wife and kids and my best friend Danis Tanovic who came to shoot this film.”

The film follows Mujic and his real-life wife Senada Alimanovic, who live near Lukavac in north-east Bosnia and make a living by collecting iron and selling it.

The film centres on a crisis that the couple went through in 2011, when Alimanovic had to carry a dead foetus in her stomach for ten days because she did not have enough money to pay for an operation.

In desperation, Alimanovic and Mujic went to another town and presented themselves as their cousins, who had health insurance, in order to get the operation which saved her life.


Senada Alimanovic holding baby Danis, named after film director Danis Tanovic (centre), and Nazif Mujic in Berlin on February 13 / Photo by Markus Schreiber, AP

After the story was published in the media, Tanovic and his crew decided to make a film of it and hired the real-life protagonists to play themselves.

Mujic said that he hoped that the film, and the prizes it has attracted, would raise awareness of Roma problems in Bosnia and change the way that society and its institutions treats them.

“My recommendation is that we should all be humans a little more and a little less deal with nations. We all have the same blood,” he said.

He added that he will now return to his ordinary life of collecting iron.

Bosnian movie-goers will have the chance to see 'An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker'  at the Sarajevo film festival in the summer.

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