Berlinale Review: Flotel Europa

The title of Vladmir Tomic’s personal documentary, Flotel Europa, references the site of his unconventional childhood home: a floating high-rise housing project in the port of Copenhagen. After leaving Sarajevo with his mother and brother in the summer of 1992, a twelve-year-old Tomic spent two formative years in a cramped cabin amidst over a thousand other asylum seekers from the former Yugoslavia. His family and fellow refugees faithfully documented their experiences via VHS recordings that were periodically sent back home. Over twenty years later, these tapes serve as the backdrop for Tomic’s dreamlike coming-of-age narrative.

Tomic initially describes Flotel Europa nostalgically, and his romanticism often blurs the line between fact and fiction. When portraying his first love Melisa, he claims that she “gave a shine to the room around her, like a fairy” and introduces himself as Boško Buha, the name of a Young Yugoslav Partisan, a local hero of World War II. In a charming scene, Tomic’s mother sets up a microphone and acts as a news broadcaster reporting back to his father in Sarajevo. Over the course of his retelling, Tomic progressively fills in the missing background from the tapes. Though he may be too young to fully process what is happening, he talks about slowly realizing the internal ethnic conflicts amongst the asylum seekers as well as his growing awareness that the setting was not “normal, humane, or permanent.” In a particularly surreal scene, he shows Danish tourists visiting Flotel Europa and marveling at him and his fellow refugees “like exotic fish.” What starts as a romantic reminiscence of childhood evolves into a more communal story of mass exodus and displacement, skillfully straddling the line between emotional biography and more objective reporting.