by Danis Tanović
Two filmmakers return from a research trip to Pakistan, troubled by inconsistencies in the story they are writing. They ask their subject, Ayan – a young Pakistani salesman – to tell his story to their financiers’ lawyer, on the record. If his story is true, and he can prove it’s true, they can make the film. If not, the huge corporation whose methods they are attacking, could destroy them. Ayan’s story begins with his marriage to the beautiful Zainab. Seeing him struggle to sell unbranded local pharmaceuticals, she persuades him to try for a job with a prestigious multinational – Lasta Foods, known for their infant formulas. To his amazement, and despite his lack of a college diploma, he’s hired. It’s a dream come true for a common local boy without a college degree. Ayan takes Lasta’s fighting tiger attitude training to heart and his “growl” gets stronger everyday. He uses all his skills – and incentives – to persuade doctors and other health professionals to recommend his products. Soon he’s the star salesman and life is good. A son is born and soon another child is on the way. Faiz, one of Ayan’s new doctor friends, goes off to Karachi to study public health issues. When he returns, a couple of years later, he’s a changed man. He hauls Ayan into a children’s emergency room. Babies are dying and the doctor says it’s all Ayan’s fault. Faiz reveals a startling truth: Most of his patients don’t have access to clean water. They mix infant formula in filthy water and give it to their babies, who get diarrhoea. Or because it’s so expensive they dilute it and malnutrition follows. Breastfeeding would pass on natural immunities but mothers are persuaded to use formula instead. These babies are dying because of Ayan’s work. Devastated, Ayan visits a slum area and sees unsafe water being used everywhere. He is a father himself; he must stop these babies from dying. He is shocked that his Lasta supervisor is aware of everything, but simply blames the government for not solving the water problem. He mocks Ayan for complicating his good life for nothing. Ayan quits his job and vows to divulge the scandal behind the corporation’s infant milk formula. With the help of his legalese-friendly father, Ayan gives notice to his former employers, telling them to stop marketing breastmilk substitutes in Pakistan and presenting evidence of how he was authorised by them to breach their own rules. It’s David versus Goliath but this underdog will barely get the chance to fight. The other salesmen in the town hear he is threatening their livelihoods and go after him. Two men come to Faiz’s home in the middle of the night and warn him that no-one on Ayan’s side will be spared. Alone and desperate, Ayan fears his desire to do the right thing has brought his family to ruin. Then the head of a local action group shows him evidence that people in the west have, for years, been protesting over infant deaths in the third world. He realises he must take a stand. A western TV crew make a documentary about his story and take him to Germany to promote it. He’s promised he will return to Pakistan as a hero, but on the night of transmission, his former employers reveal a dark secret and suddenly it seems Ayan’s story must go untold. Shaken by the true complexities of Ayan’s experiences, the filmmakers realise they must tell the whole story, warts and all. But they too will soon discover the real power of a multinational corporation. Can the truth ever be told?
His previous feature, AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF AN IRON PICKER, won two Silver Bears
at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, the Grand Jury Prize and Best Actor for Nazif Mujic, who made
his debut re-enacting his own story in the film.
Tanovic´’s 2001 debut feature NO MAN’S LAND won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign
Language Film. Set in the midst of the Bosnian war in 1993, NO MAN’S LAND also won
Best Script prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and European Film Awards. The film received
over 40 international awards, making it one of the most awarded first feature films in history.
Tanovic´ has made two other films about war and its consequences. CIRKUS COLUMBIA is set
in the period just before the conflict reaches his native Bosnia & Herzegovina, and the Englishlanguage
TRIAGE, starring Colin Farrell, dealt with post-war trauma.
Tanovic´ was born in 1969 in Zenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and raised in Sarajevo where he
studied film directing at Academy of Perfoming Arts Sarajevo. When Sarajevo fell under siege,
he spent two years on the frontline filming for the army. The material that Tanovic´ and his colleagues
produced on these dangerous missions has been seen in many films and news reports
about the Bosnian war. In 1994, Tanovic´ emigrated to Belgium to continue his film studies at
INSAS film school and he began making shorts and documentaries.
In 2005, Tanovic´ made the French-language feature HELL (L´ENFER), from a script co-written
by the late Krzysztof Kieslowski. The film starred many of France’s finest actors, including Emmanuelle
Beart, Guillaume Canet, Jacques Gamblin, Carole Bouquet and Jean Rochefort.
2013 AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF AN IRON PICKER
2010 CIRKUS COLUMBIA
2009 TRIAGE 2005 L’ENFER (HELL)
2001 NO MAN’S LAND
Emraan Hashmi - Ayan
Geetanjali - Zainab
Danny Huston - Alex
Khalid Abdalla -Nadeem
Adil Hussain - Bilal
Satyadeep Misra - Faiz
Maryam D'Abo - Maggie
Heino Ferch - Michael
Sam Reid - Frank
Vinod Nagpal - Mustafa
Supriya Pathak - Ayan's Mother
Director Danis Tanović
Screenplay Danis Tanović, Andy Paterson
Music Composer Pritam
Director of Photography Erol Zubcevic
Editor Prerna Saigal
Sound Designer Anthony B. J. Ruban
Costume Designer Niharika Khan
Production Designer Rachna Rastogi, K.K. Murlidharan
Casting Seher Latif, CSA
Line Producer Vishal Bajaj
Make Up Serina Tixeira
Format: DCP / 2.35:1 / Color / Dolby 5.1
Length: 90 min.
Original Language: English, Urdu