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Flotel Europa

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Released at a time in which refugees have earned a negative portrayal in the media, Flotel Europa is an effective documentary in humanising refugees, told through the perspective of Vladimir Tomic, who was a boy at the time.

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  • Currently circulating international film festivals

Anticipation

Tomic is known for his documentaries about the war in 1992, and Flotel Europa is a little talked about topic

Viewing

The film is made up of old VHS tapes, and is edited effectively to show the life of these refugees.

Recommendation

Tomic is an excellent storyteller, and Flotel Europa is a well-told documentary about the lives of refugees in limbo.

 

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In 1992 refugees from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina reached Denmark, and with refugee camps completely full the Red Cross pulled in a giant ship. The ship, Flotel Europa, became a temporary home for a thousand people waiting on the decisions of their asylum applications. Among them was Vladimir Tomic, then a twelve year old boy who fled Sarajevo with his mother and older brother. They spent two years in limbo living on Flotel Euopa, and two decades later Tomic recounts various tales of his youth and childhood, all using old VHS recordings from the ship.

Tomic initially describes Flotel Europa nostalgically, recounting the girl he likes and all the cool, older friends he hung out with. Over the course of the retelling, Tomic progressively fills in the missing background from the tapes. Though he may be too young to process what is happening, he talks about his slow realisation of the ethnic conflicts amongst the asylum seekers, as well as his growing awareness that the setting wasn’t normal or even humane. In a particularly strange scene, he shows Danish tourists visiting Flotel Europa and marvelling at the refugees.

What starts as a romantic reminiscence of childhood evolves into a more communal story of displacement, and Tomic skilfully straddles the line between biography and reporting. Flotel Europa is excellent documentary making, and it’ll be interesting to see what Tomic does next.

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Cinema Scandinavia is a bi-monthly Nordic film and television magazine with a focus on writing for international audiences. Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia.