Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee tells the true story of Amin Nawabi (a pseudonym) 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 to start new lives in Denmark. Although Rasmussen first met his friend in high school, Nawabi has never told his story to anyone. 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.
By telling the story through animation and stock footage, Flee has a unique feel. There is something beautiful about this style of storytelling. It 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. On the other hand, through his (limited) use of archival footage, Rasmussen grounds his story in reality. Even when the animated style allows you to keep a distance from the story, the footage provides necessary historical context.
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 honest and humility. With each reveal, one senses that Nawabi has taken a more difficult path with the potential for massive reward.
Flee premiered at TIFF ’21 on Tuesday, September 14th, 2021.