Directed by: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Written by: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Released: February 17, 2022
Grade: A


Flee is the first film to be nominated at the Academy Awards for best animated feature and best documentary feature.  If that strange combination hasn’t tweaked your curiosity, the fact it’s also nominated for best international feature should put it on the radar for any discerning filmgoer looking for a slice of quality, original cinema.  My opinion is equally rapturous.  It’s one of the best releases of the past year.

Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen first met the film’s subject, Amin Nawabi (not his real name), when they were teenagers living in Denmark.  They’ve been friends for 25 years but it’s only now that Amin has had the confidence to cathartically open up and speak of his traumatic upbringing.  Using the medium of animation allows Rasmussen to keep Amin’s identity hidden while also illustrating key events from his past in rich, articulate detail.

Amin was born in the 1970s and grew up with his two parents and three other siblings in Afghanistan.  His father disappeared in 1979 after being arrested by the communist government and then when war broke out in the early 1990s, he and the rest of the family fled to Russia as refugees.  It was tough going.  They had next-to-no money and they lived in constant fear of being “discovered” and sent back home to Afghanistan to face persecution.

Today, Amin is a successful academic but the film skilfully articulates the impact of events 30 years ago and how they still shape his life today.  Even with the people closest to him, Amin keeps this story hidden – worried that someone will use it against him one day.  Keeping such secrets for so long, coupled with the fact he’s been a closeted gay man, has had a huge impact on his personality and his relationships.  You can’t help but wonder what he’d be like now if not for the trauma in his life.

I love Rasmussen’s use of animation.  The current day interviews still look and feel like a documentary.  We see two men sitting in front a camera with one asking questions of the other. The lens occasionally loses focus too!  There are also moments where “off the record” conversations have seemingly been captured via a camera kept at a distance.  Different styles of animation are adopted for the film’s flashback scenes.  This is best articulated by sequences involving people traffickers where the simplest, barest of sketches is used.

Flee is an incredibly moving film that highlights the emotional scars forever carried by refugees.