TIFF 2021: Flee is a Riveting Documentary About an Afghan Refugee

TIFF 2021 Flee Review

Flee is a devastating nevertheless gorgeous combination of realism and un-actuality. Vice Studios

Documentary realism almost never goes hand-in-hand with animated un-truth, but in Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee, these two aesthetic worlds collide and generate a feeling of becoming unmoored. The film follows Rasmussen’s extensive-time pal Amin Nawabi—a pseudonym to guard his identity—via interviews about his secretive escape from war-torn Kabul in the 1980s, his perilous refugee journey as a result of various nations around the world, and his lifestyle as a homosexual Muslim person who, one particular way or a further, has to conceal some aspect of himself. In a mere 90 minutes, the movie plunges the viewers into the depths of refugee trauma and the techniques set in place to strip people today of their dignity, but it also builds to times of spectacular euphoria, and to a transferring, deeply viewed as comprehending of the way Nawabi has experienced to compartmentalize his soul.

The movie from time to time follows Nawabi in the course of his day by day schedule, but for most of the interview segments, he lies supine, with the digital camera suspended above him, as if it had been documenting a shut session of extended-overdue therapy. These interviews are animated—rotoscoped, in fact—so as to hide Nawabi’s face, but even the most insignificant of noises are turned up in the sound blend, like Nawabi’s tense breath, and the way he shifts into placement when he lays down to talk. His hid fact commonly pierces the animated veil. Art director Jess Nicholls re-creates his refined glances off-digital camera, as his doubts about revealing himself and his painful story come to the fore. At some point, he will make breathtaking confessions to his close friend Rasmussen, about his family members and their whereabouts, which he has unveiled to no one—not even his very long-time period boyfriend—for the just about two many years he’s lived in Denmark.


Flee ★★★★
(4/4 stars)
Directed by: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Prepared by: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Operating time: 90 mins.


The frame stands entirely however when it captures Nawabi’s hesitance, but when he commences telling his story, it zips by means of time and room. Archival stay-motion footage establishes the broader political backdrop, although Nawabi’s personal flashbacks remodel in animation design. They capture his youthful zeal as a bit of an oddball baby, with sweet crushes on Hollywood and Bollywood foremost adult men, and a soundtrack of European and American pop audio blasting from his pink headphones as he frolics by the streets. These flashbacks also seize the obscure designs of crumbling properties and empty, clear silhouettes of Afghan bystanders fleeing the US-USSR conflict. Nawabi’s memories of childhood contentment with his mother and his lots of siblings sense heat, and entire, but his recollections of the war begin out as suppressed. They absence finer particulars. These are sooner or later filled in the additional he opens up—to the digital camera, and to himself.

His journey normally takes yrs, and it breaks up his spouse and children bit by bit, as they are forced to navigate cruel and high-priced traffickers and corrupt regional authorities in various nations, who are hell-bent on making use of ghoulish immigration legal guidelines from them. Some of this tranquil barbarism is downright nauseating, not for the reason that actual physical cruelty is overtly depicted, but simply because of how the movie captures and magnifies its depressing impact, turning people, at the time once more, into shaded sketches, where by their humanity results in being misplaced. At their most monstrous, these events—as recalled by Nawabi—even direct to the animation turning out to be disintegrated and abstract as he migrates from location to location, as if he ended up unable to find any semblance of belonging, or permanence, or solid floor.

The effects of Nawabi’s trauma linger in the existing. His selections are normally clinical and job-centered, born of a individual resolve to stay up to his family’s sacrifices, and born of a gnawing survivor’s guilt that helps prevent him from pursuing pleasure. He also opens every new chapter of his story with a fearful quiver in his voice. His pressure doesn’t appear to subside no issue how close he is to Rasmussen, because of the way his story and lawful status have been used versus him in the earlier. In the current, he continues to be closed off from the earth as a indicates to endure.

The initial rating, by Uno Helmersson, matches Nawabi’s most hopeless recollections as a result of heavy strings that sink into the pit of your abdomen. Its most unforgettable notes, on the other hand, get there during a significantly pulsating scene, where the rigidity of Nawabi revealing a magic formula part of himself gives way to an unanticipated screen of acceptance. The new music, while as hesitant and restrained as Nawabi by layout, pushes ahead no matter, and builds to a second of liberation that, though fleeting, feels emotionally exhilarating. The film’s visual and aural fabric, right after embodying so a great deal anguish and indignity, radiates an overpowering heat and tenderness—a uniquely transferring catharsis.  

An sad to say well timed movie, Flee uses animation primarily to sharpen the risky edges of its refugee story, and to seize the devastating bodily and psychological toll of by no means-ending war. But in transient times, the film functions as a religious balm, supplying hints and alternatives of a planet exactly where Nawabi may well one particular working day be capable to entirely share himself with other men and women. Wherever he might one working day experience full.


Observer Evaluations are typical assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

‘Flee’ Is a Riveting Animated Documentary About an Afghan Refugee