Running Time: 90 minutes
Written by: Jonas Poher Rasmussen and Amin Nawabi
Directed by: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Amin (9-11 years old): “We have no idea what’s going to happen. to us. Nobody tells us anything. The journalists come and film us. We hope something will happen, but no. They go home to make TV programmes… But nothing really happens. It’s just us and the guards.”
Released recently on DVD is the animated documentary from Denmark, “Flee” (2021), which was also nominated for three Oscars last year. “Flee” was definitely one of the best reviewed films of 2021 and was a success in many international markets. This was not the first documentary to be animated but it marked a high point in the sub-genre and proved what can be achieved through that medium. This also marked the first time an animated film had been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film.
“Flee” is presented in the form of an animated documentary; animated scenes depict Amin’s past and present, interspersed with archival footage. The film is begins with Amin Nawabi who is being interviewed in Denmark by director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, who has known Amin since they were teenagers. Jonas is making a documentary about Amin’s life, including his escape from Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. Amin has not shared the full details of his story with anyone, including his boyfriend Kasper, whom he plans to marry. The trauma of his past affects Amin’s ability to settle down, and he considers a position away from Kasper in the United States as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University. Amin begins by sharing stories of his childhood in Kabul with his mother Tahera, sisters Fahima and Sabia, and his older brother Saif.
“Flee” has been co-written and directed by Danish film-maker Jonas Poher Rasmussen it is an extremely emotional narrative, it is possible to see the impact on the director and his subject, almost immediately. Rasmussen’s digital animation, interspersed with live-action archive TV footage, not only links the past with the present but does so in a way that is obvious and gives the narrative a natural structure, much like a fiction film, well a good one anyway. This is also a way of obscuring the subject’s identity, which still has to be kept secret.
This film is about so much that it is difficult to talk about in any kind of review, however it does cover themes such as nationalism, racism, borders and national identity. Even if “Flee” was not a documentary it would be a great film, there is no doubt that the story would touch emotions maybe even change minds, it is that kind of story. I don’t want to give away any spoilers as this would harm the experience of seeing it in any natural form, it would also do a disservice to the filmmakers and the subject, I recommend this highly.