The groundbreaking animated documentary “Flee” is revolutionary in so many ways it will leave you spellbound


Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen has been a friend of Amin Nawabi since they were teenagers and attended the same school in Denmark. Amin, has always been guarded and extremely private. However, now that he is about to marry his partner Kasper, he has decided to share his story for the first time with Jonas about his hidden past and his fleeing Afghanistan with his mother, older brother and two sisters.

After nine years of occupation, the Soviets began to withdraw their troops in 1988 leaving the Afghan people to be “governed” by the mujahideen with their strict Islamic Codes and their disdain for education, particularly the education of women – over the next few years the mujahideen would morph into the Taliban. The mujahideen had already killed Amin’s father a pilot and, being part of the educated middle class, his remaining family would be directly targeted as well. They barely make it to Moscow since Russia is the only country that would grant them an exit visa. But that was just the beginning of their misery. In Moscow they were stuck without the proper papers and at the mercy of the ultra-corrupt Russian police. Believe me when I tell you that the Russian authorities do NOT come across well in this film. They have to wait until an older brother in Sweden can raise enough money to pay smugglers to get them out of Russia and into some Western European country. The cruelty and selfishness of the smugglers rivals that of the Russian police. After years of “rotting” in Moscow, Amin eventually makes it to Denmark.

Initially meant to be a short film, after hearing Amin’s amazing story, Rasmussen decided to convert the film into an animated feature. And what a gift for us, the audience! Rasmussen’s animation is stunningly crisp with astonishing depth of focus. The technique allows him much greater freedom of expression than you would ordinarily expect. There are scenes of such brutality and horror in Kabul, Moscow and on the several attempts at being smuggled to the West that it would not have been possible to tell this story with live actors or, if he did, it would not be possible for an audience to watch it (I was reminded of Atom Egoyan’s failed attempt to make a film about the Armenian genocide in “Ararat”. If he had made it as an animated feature things might have been different).

But there is another astonishing element to this film and that is Amins’s sexuality. Knowing that he is gay from an early age, his view of society and his displacement to foreign lands is, therefore, seen and experienced from the point of view of a double outsider. This also leads to some very funny situations – the film is always buoyant and life-affirming even at it’s bleakest moments.

I left the cinema with that “floating-on-air feeling” that you get after seeing a something really special. After seeing a masterpiece.


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