By Lynn Venhaus
An extraordinary film that bends genres, “Flee” is a powerful account of a refugee’s harrowing journey and his survival.
A documentary from Denmark that is told through animation, “Flee” is the true-life account of Amin Nawabi, a pseudonym for an Afghan refugee who fled to the Soviet Union with his family, and then later came to Europe — as an unaccompanied minor..
At 36, he is a successful academic and getting married to his long-time boyfriend. But the secret he has been hiding for more than 20 years threatens to ruin the life he has built for himself. He shares his story with a close friend, confronting his past so that he can have a future.
How director Jonas Poher Rasmussen tells Amin’s life is inventive – he’s part of the process as the friend/interviewer. The animation style brings out the details in a poignant and urgent way, but he also uses news footage to frame Afghanistan’s civil war during the 1980s, give it some context.
By spotlighting one refugee, Rasmussen sheds light on how much people fight for their freedom. Amin’s memories turn into a narrative adventure and he is depicted at two young ages, then as an adult. The pain and suffering endured by Amin as a boy feels as real as a live-action film — the emotions are brought out in the ingenious storytelling.
The artistry exhibited here makes the film feel groundbreaking – and it has received much acclaim during the 2021-2022 awards season. It was named Best Documentary by the St. Louis Film Critics Association and could conceivably be nominated in three different categories – animation, documentary, and international feature – at the Oscars. It is already submitted as Denmark’s entry (each country gets one slot) and has made the shortlist of 15 to be considered on the nomination ballot, and the same for documentary.
Finally having the courage to share his traumatizing journey is cathartic and profound.
“Flee” is a 2021 documentary, animation and international feature directed and written by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. It is Denmark’s entry for the Academy Awards international film and has made the shortlist. Rated PG-13 for thematic content, disturbing images and strong language, and the runtime is 1 hour, 29 minutes. In local theaters on Jan. 28. Lynn’s Grade: A
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat daily newspaper. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association.