Amin Nawabi is an Afghan refugee living in Denmark. He has a successful career and a friend. However, Amin is not his real name. It’s a pseudonym and is used to share its harrowing story that is recorded in the animated documentary “Flee,” It’s a necessity. Even today, if his name is made public, it could have a serious impact on himself and his family. This creates the conditions for how serious the operations are Jonas Poher Rasmussens powerful and personal new film. An image that was finally revealed to the world at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival after being selected for the canceled 2020 Cannes Film Festival last May.
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After a teenage Amin fled his war-torn homeland, he came to Copenhagen alone in 1995 with no family or friends to greet him. Everyone he met, including his longtime friend Jonas (also a teenager at the time) believed his story that the mujahideen had killed his family and that he had “walked” from Afghanistan to Denmark. A little over two decades later, he decides to finally reveal what really happened in a series of recorded conversations with Jonas. It is an incredible journey that begins with happy memories of playing with his brothers and sisters in Kabul, to hide from the police in a Moscow apartment for years before finally fleeing to Western Europe
When Jonas begins this process, Amin is at a turning point in his life. The 36-year-old studied at Princeton University in the United States while having a long-distance relationship with his friend Jasper in Denmark. Jasper wants to get a house and settle down, but Amin debates an offer to do more postgraduate theses overseas. As Jonas notes, Amin was always seemingly insecure and whether the disclosure of painful secrets for his friend and the world will allow him some peace remains to be seen.
Manufactured in the tradition of the groundbreaking 2008 “Waltz with Bashir” The film differs not only in its animated aesthetics, but also in that Jonas plays a central role in the film as an interviewer. Archive footage from Kabul, post-Soviet Russia, and key moments in Amin’s trek is also displayed to remind you that these events took place. As fascinating as a story is, its trauma, like that of many refugees, is not fiction. It’s real and permanent.
“Flee” is also a rare window into the eyes of a refugee who experiences this displacement as a withdrawn young gay man. Nawabi knew that as a child he was different from being obsessed with one Jean Claude Van Damme Poster on his bedroom wall. As a young adult, he worries not only whether he will find safety, but whether his family will accept him for who he is. In a film full of impressively edited sequences, like Rasmussen, editor Janus Billeskov Jansen ((“The Act of Killing”), Composer Uno Helmersson and the animation team led by the animation director Kenneth Ladekjær Working together on this aspect of Amin’s story is undeniably moving.
At the center of the film, however, are the endless effects of the horrors that many refugees experience. Whether it’s displaced Syrians flooding Europe or Central Americans fleeing violent political corruption, Amin’s story is strikingly timely. And while there have been several documentaries and narratives in the past decade that convey her pain, the animated storytelling of “Flee” is something eye catching that makes this particular struggle extraordinarily poignant and human. To say it is an outstanding achievement by cinema is an understatement.