Amin Nawabi had never told this story to anyone. Until now.
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee tells the incredible true story of Amin Nawabi (a pseudonym), an immigrant to Denmark who fled Afghanistan as a young man. Over the course of a journey that included relying on human smugglers, almost drowning at sea and fake identities, Nawabi and his family were willing to take every possible avenue available in order to start new lives. Now an adult living with his partner, Nawabi he has chosen this format to tell the struggles that made him the man that he is today, including being separated from his family and coming to terms with his sexuality at a time of oppression.
It has become popular to hype stories by making claims that ‘you’ll never believe what happens next’ or the like but, in Nawabi’s case, it’s a true statement. This is the story of a man has never had the strength to explain anything about his life prior to his experience in Denmark yet has finally chosen to unlock the floodgates of his past. In this way, Rasmussen has absolutely struck narrative gold. As Nawabi unveils his riveting and terrifying story, you will remains transfixed by the tale. From his oppression as a child to his many attempted escapes, the openness and candor that Nawabi shows in sharing his life story is remarkable. Given the levels of trauma that he has experienced throughout his life, it is no wonder why he struggled to share it with anyone before. However, in Flee, he seems completely willing to open the vault of his life with both courage and strength.
By telling the story through animation and stock footage, Flee has a unique feel. This style of storytelling somehow manages to allow the narrative to pop onscreen visually without taking anything away from the storyteller himself. However, the animated style also filters the truth. For example, while the film itself plays out like a memory, so too does it also remain one that we can’t fully see for ourselves. No matter how traumatic an event is or how much it resonates within our soul, memory is something that cannot always be trusted. Perhaps it’s too painful for the storyteller. Perhaps events have been shaded by youthful eyes and memory. As such, the story remains both truth and fiction. While we trust that Nawabi is being honest, we are also allowed the opportunity to see that it is an interpretation of the truth. In this way, the animated style allows the viewer to keep a safe distance from the story that Nawabi wants to tell while providing a sense of safety for the storyteller himself.
Visceral and emotional, Flee highlights the painful realities of those who live in the Middle East. Through his (limited) use of archival footage, Rasmussen grounds his story in reality. While the exact details of Nawabi’s story may be in question at times, the global situation is never in doubt. Even when the animated style allows you to keep a distance from the story, the footage provides necessary historical context. Whether or not every detail is accurate becomes almost irrelevant. What matters most is what was happening around him.
In Flee, we see quickly that his story is not an isolated one.
At the same time, the film also demonstrates the power of owning our stories. Despite the fact that these events have shaped his life, Nawabi has remained unable to speak about them, as if they were events that belonged to someone else. They have affected his relationships and the way he views the world yet his partner and friends remained unaware of the horrific moments that have caused fear and trepidation within him. Now, by sharing his story, he is giving himself the chance to take back what was taken from him. Where there once was disconnect with his soul, now he can begin to become whole.
Passionate and personal, it’s quite possible that you may have never seen a documentary quite like Flee. With creativity and style, Rasmussen creates a visual treat for the eyes that accentuates his narrative. However, the real story here is not the format. The most powerful aspect of Flee is Nawabi himself as he bears his soul with honesty and humility. With each reveal, one senses that Nawabi has taken a more difficult path with the potential for massive reward.
By sharing his story in Flee, he has chosen to no longer run from his past… and he is giving himself the chance to heal as a result.
Flee is available in theatres on Friday, December 3rd, 2021.