Amin (a pseudonym to protect his real identity) is a refugee from Afghanistan who found asylum in Denmark 20 years ago and now as his academic career continues to flourish and prepares to marry his longtime boyfriend, he has found that he must confront a secret he’s been hiding for the past two decades in order to move forward. It’s best I don’t say anything further regarding the plot, because the moments of catharsis will hit you far less impactful if you know what’s coming.
Jonas Poher Rasmussen is nothing if not ambitious in how he creates Flee. Documentaries at large have been at great risk of becoming monolithic in their form and structure over the past decade, so it’s refreshing to watch one that bucks all trends. Rasmussen tells Amin’s story through gorgeous animation to support the effort to protect his identity. This choice to animate just about the whole film is a bold one that does succeed and avoids feeling gimmicky. It’s almost as if somebody involved said “What if we made his identity protection an artistic flourish of the film?” The animation is very warm and inventive in how it translates Amin’s story to us. Rasmussen effectively parses in archival footage and some well-hit needle drops to further draw us into this tale. I will never fault a filmmaker for telling their story as ambitiously as they can.
It helps that Amin’s friend since high school is our director, Rasmussen. With this, we are able to peak into moments of intimacy between old friends and understand that Amin could only tell his story to someone like Jonas. Flee is about the power of a story. Of how a certain catharsis and understanding can only be achieved by trusting somebody else with your story.
In a certain sense, Flee feels like it could only be told through this dreamy animation. If we were watching Amin’s face blurred out the entire time, it would have been less likely that we’d become so attached to him. The emotional and heavy moments of his story just wouldn’t have had the same effect if they did not embrace the ecstatic truth that the animation here allows. I wish I had more to say about this documentary, because it is quite good. Even in the short bit of time since watching it, I’ve found myself liking it and liking the decisions Rasmussen made the more I think about Flee. Above all, there is a great empathy that flows through this film that I will keep coming back to when I think of Rasmussen’s work.