It’s rare that a movie comes along that feels like it is doing something truly unique, so when one does it is automatically worth seeing at least once. And in the even rarer cases when a movie is both unique and good, it is worth treasuring. Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary Flee is unlike nearly any other non-fiction film out there other than perhaps 2008’s Waltz with Bashir and tells a vital and memorable story about the experience of many refugees through the journey of one in particular.
We open on Amin Nawabi being interviewed for this film by his friend. As he and his boyfriend are preparing to move their relationship to the next level and get married, he is finally ready to share his story of how he made it to Denmark. In Afghanistan in 1984 he lives happily with his family, though missing his father who had been disappeared by the Police. Then, several years later when the Soviet Union decides to pull out of the country, the American-backed Mujahideen (a pre-cursor to Al Qaeda) sweeps into Kabul, violently punishing those they deem unsupportive. Amin and his family escape on a flight to Russia, the only country accepting Afghan refugees at the time, where they find they are treated horribly by that nation’s very corrupt Police forces. Over the next several years, they try repeatedly to escape to somewhere safer, often relying on unscrupulous human trafficking operations.
This is a truly harrowing film that demands to be seen as widely as possible. The traumas that Amin and his family are forced to endure can seem like more than anyone can survive, but survive they do, and their love and loyalty for each other remain even when they are forced to spend years apart, pretending the others don’t exist in order to maintain their protected status in their host countries. There are moments of joy here though, especially as it works towards a modestly happy ending with an especially sweet final moment that switches from animation to live-action and gives us just a glimpse of the real Amin from behind, enjoying the property around his new home with his partner. Beautifully animated, memorably moving, and sharply poignant, Flee is a must-see. ★★★★★
rated pg-13 for thematic content, disturbing images, and strong language.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor