Animated doc ‘Flee’ tells young refugee’s journey
Filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen was 15 when he encountered a new face on a local train in his sleepy Danish town. It was the kind of place where immigrants couldn’t help but stand out, but Rasmussen noticed this kid’s style first. He had some and most people there didn’t.
Rasmussen knew the boy, Amin (a pseudonym), lived with a foster family down the street and had come from Afghanistan, but he didn’t know much else. Riding together to high school daily, they became friends eventually. Amin didn’t talk about his past or his family and
Rasmussen didn’t probe — they were just kids after all. It would take some 20 years for Amin to start telling Rasmussen, then a working filmmaker, the real story of his childhood. The result is the animated documentary “Flee,” and it’s easily one of the best films of the year.
Amin and his family fled Kabul in the 1980s. They hoped to find asylum in Sweden but for five years faced impossible challenges and setbacks and kept finding themselves in Russia and under constant threat of deportation or exploitation by the police. Eventually, 15-yearold Amin landed alone in Denmark.
“Flee” introduces Amin as an adult who is gearing up to tell his story to the world for the first time. He’s an accomplished scholar with a longtime partner who wants to get married and buy a
house, but Amin is reticent to put himself first. The visuals look as though we’ve snuck in on a therapist’s session, and the experience of hearing his story come out is not so different either. Amin has become so accustomed to hiding his truth, including the fact that he’s gay, that he’s actually a fairly unreliable narrator at first, lying to the audience and the director.
But Rasmussen sees that his friend won’t be able to actually live his life without confronting his past. So, with closed eyes, Amin takes us back to the five years he’s spent a lifetime repressing.
“Flee,” a Neon release in theaters Friday, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for thematic content, disturbing images and strong language.” Running time: 90 minutes.