An orphan’s journey back to Bosnia after 20 years in search of answers and an understanding of his long lost family.
Editor’s note: This film is no longer available online.
Filmmakers: Oggi Tomic and Chris Leslie
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Oggi Tomic was born with water on the brain, was abandoned at birth and given just months to live. Serbian-born, he did not get the best start in life.
Twenty-seven years on, however, against the odds and through the kindness of strangers, he is alive and well and living happily married in the UK.
After a childhood plagued by near starvation, shelling and continuous suffering, it seems like everything is finally falling into place until one day he receives a phone call. His long lost family has tracked him down.
It is the moment every orphan waits for their entire life. There is just one thing. He was born a Serb, but brought up a Bosnian and it turns out the family he has waited his entire life to hear from are, in fact, his natural born enemies, Serbs – the same “Men in the Hills” who shelled and sniped at him during the 1,300-day siege of Sarajevo that began 20 years ago.
His uncle, four sisters and entire extended family are eager to reconcile and make up for lost time, but his mother still will not mention his name or even acknowledge his existence.
Filmed over the space of two months in the summer of 2012, Finding Family is a powerful and profound first-person narrative that captures Oggi’s journey back to Bosnia for this extraordinary family reunion. It is a story of identity and belonging on an individual and national level that combines over 15 years of film and photography archive with stunning observational footage and interviews as this fascinating story unfolds and Oggi journeys from Cambridge to Sarajevo, from the orphanage where he was abandoned 27 years ago, to the hospital where he made his miraculous recovery, and all the way up to his family’s front door.
By Chris Leslie
I first met Oggi in 1997 as a 13-year-old in Sarajevo Orphanage. I was there as a volunteer to teach the kids in the orphanage black-and-white photography in a specially constructed darkroom in the basement. It was only supposed to be a three-month summer project that grew into a four-year project, and with meeting Oggi turned into a 15-year brotherhood.
Oggi was the first kid who expressed an interest in the project, he was keen to learn photography, he was keen to learn anything that would give him a break from the monotonous and sometimes brutal life of the orphanage. He spoke English and he had a look of honesty that he would not steal any cameras. From day one, he became my right-hand man and, with the other students, we ran around documenting Sarajevo as it was slowly rebuilt after the war.
I have witnessed and been part of all of Oggi’s life since he was 13, from the low points of him being kicked out the orphanage at 15, to leaving Sarajevo, though to the high points of his graduation and his wedding in the UK.
We have worked together on a few short film projects since he graduated and we always discussed, dreamed of the idea of making a feature-length film together. When his long lost family got in touch after 27 years, we knew it would be an amazing story to document and this was our moment.
But it was always going to be a difficult journey for Oggi and we discussed the possible outcomes, good and bad for him. Both of us were unsure of what happened in the first days, first years of his life, so the nervousness and fear of what of was to happen next on the 10-day journey to find out is reflected in front of and behind the camera.
It was more than making a film in the end, it was way beyond that. Being able to document Oggi making this journey was a special part of my life, too. I always had the image in my head of Oggi as the lost 13-year-old orphan in Sarajevo throughout the 10-day shoot and making this film together seemed like the perfect way to cement a 15-year relationship as brothers.
For me – my time in Sarajevo, as a young photographer from 1996 to 2001, was crucial in shaping me as a photographer, filmmaker and as a person. For Oggi, Sarajevo is his city, his home and where his heart is.