INTERVIEW / VLADIMIR TOMIC / FLOTEL EUROPA
Growing up on a refugee ship Fleeing Sarajevo with his family in 1992, Vladimir Tomic spent two years on a refugee ship in Denmark. In Flotel Europa, the director juxtaposes VHS footage shot by the Bosnians living on the ship with his personal story about a 12-year-old boy trying to live a normal life in a place far from normal.
Forum / Berlinale 2015
By Freja Dam When 12-year-old Vladimir Tomic first learned that he was going to live on a ship, he was “the happiest boy in the world.” But life on Flotel Europa, a giant floating refugee camp in the harbour of Copenhagen, was different than he imagined. Confined to tiny cabins with a thousand other Bosnian refugees, he observed frustrated adults drinking, crying at night and throwing things at the TV set that didn’t provide the news they wanted. But, as he tells in the firstperson narration of his autobiographical documentary Flotel Europa, he also found “a particular charm” in their new home and experienced friendship, rock’n’roll and an obsession with a pair of “big brown eyes with a shade of green in them” belonging to a girl named Melissa. Tomic came to Denmark with his mother and older brother in 1992 with a wave of refugees from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. With refugee camps completely full, the Red Cross pulled a giant ship into the harbour of Copenhagen. The ship, Flotel Europa, became a temporary home for 26
a thousand people waiting for decisions on their asylum applications. Tomic and his family lived there for two years. Twenty years later, the now 34-year-old director takes us back to the ship, narrating his own story to personal VHS archive material shot by refugees who shared the “space-time vacuum” of the Flotel. “As the phone line to Bosnia rarely worked, we, the refugees, started recording our lives and personal messages on VHS tapes and sending them to our relatives through Red Cross humanitarian convoys,” explains Tomic. Years after, his grandfather gave him an old VHS tape with the inscription “To my grandfather from Flotel Europa.” “The VHS tape I once sent to my grandfather brought me back to that time, and I felt that there was a story that needed to be told. Together with my dear friend and producer Selma Jusufbegovic, I started gathering the VHS material from other Bosnian refugees living in Denmark, and soon I had hundreds of hours of people’s personal material in my hands. My memories of life on Flotel Europa were as vivid as the material, so I wrote them down.”
Vladimir Tomic was among the thousand refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina living on Flotel Europa in Copenhagen Harbour.
FILM | Berlin Issue 2015
Danish Film Institute's magazine with interviews and all the basics on Danish films at Berlin 2015