Plans for Bosnian release of Danis Tanovic’s award-winning film include year-long tour to smaller towns and VoD release.

Danis Tanovic’s An Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker, winner of the Jury Grand Prize and Silver Bear for best actor at this year’s Berlinale, has opened the Sarajevo Film Festival. The film was picked up in Berlin by joint Operation Kino programme of the SFF, Sofia Film Festival, Transylvania International Film Festival and Istanbul Film Festival.  

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the film will be released on Sept 19 through distribution arm of Obala Art Centar, which is one of the founders of the SFF. In the territory that has only 21 screens for its 4 million inhabitants, Obala is releasing day-and-date in 15 cities with existing cinemas. After that the film will go on a year-long tour using the Operation Kino’s travelling cinema infrastructure in order to reach the audiences in towns without functional theatres — those where culture centres from the time of the former Yugoslavia stand in for cinemas when a new local film is out, or places that have no screens at all, thus reaching 30 towns throughout the country. From Sept 26, the film will also be available on VoD platforms.

“With Operation Kino we visited about 50 towns so far and we realized that some of the places have audiences eager to go to cinema but have no opportunity,” explains Obala’s Ena Djozo. “It’s significant that they are particularly interested in seeing films that are not coming from Hollywood and that they hardly even have the chance to hear of.”

Since the Berlinale awards, the real-life story of Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker returned to the media and public focus in Bosnia. Of course this was immensely helped by Tanovic’s reputation, but maybe even more by the non-professional actor, winner of Silver Bear Nazif Mujic’s charisma and activity, so the distributor did not really need to spend much on advertising as the publicity has not decreased much since February.

“Mujic, who is not even a professional actor, has been a fantastic surprise for everybody including us,” says Djozo. “His Berlinale award was widely covered in the media, he received a lot of publicity and really used it to turn the public focus onto racial discrimination and the non-functioning health system in Bosnia, which in turn gave an additional push to the film and kept up the awareness of it since February.”

However, due to generally low theatrical attendance, the release will initially be limited to seven days in Sarajevo and the opening weekend in smaller cities.

“We will see how the audience reacts and how much interest there is,” says Djozo. “It is a very unusual film for regular audiences but for local product there is always interest. Even more so for a film by a household name director with such topical subject matter that everyone in Bosnia can relate to.”

As for distribution in the rest of the region, Obala has the rights for the countries of former Yugoslavia except Slovenia and negotiations with distributors are still ongoing, but the current plan is to release An Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker in Croatia in October, in Macedonia in November and in Serbia in December.