c-flee

With an intense emotional story centered around hiding the truth of one’s identity from others, “Flee” is an incredibly poignant film experience. However, as a documentary, the film falls short of its full potential.

“Flee” is an animated documentary feature from filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen. The film follows a man under the alias of Amin Nawabi who shares his story of fleeing from his home country of Afghanistan amid the country’s withdrawal from the Soviet Union. Eventually, Amin ends up in Denmark. On the brink of marriage, he shares his tale for the first time. The film is animated to protect Amin’s true identity as well as the identity of his family members.

The emotional core of “Flee” is easily the film’s most compelling quality. Amin’s story of not only having to hide his nationality from those around him for fear of punishment, but also his homosexuality from his own family for fear of abandonment is hard not to be gripped by. The drama associated with repressed personal identity to better fit in among peers is universally relatable and touching.

The concept of an animated documentary is not the most original concept in the world at this point; prior films like “Tower” and “Waltz with Bashir” have used the technique effectively to their own ends. The animation of “Flee,” while not mind-blowingly complex, also achieves this goal of being effective to its own ends. The animation itself is neatly stylized to match the look of a graphic novel. There are a multitude of sequences that are enhanced by the animated visuals that would not be nearly as successful if they were just stock photographs or decaying b-roll footage.

I appreciated the way how, even though the documentary was animated, it was still presented with all the visual signifiers of a typical live-action documentary. This was accomplished by cutting to Amin laying down on a couch and answering questions that Poher Rasmusssen asked him, with a clapperboard leading into these scenes as if it were a real-life interview. Little touches like that give the documentary extra personality so it is not just 90 minutes of some guy talking.

While the story of “Flee” is emotionally gripping, the way the story is told leaves a fair bit to be desired. This documentary’s narrative takes place over the course of several years and across multiple continents but feels like it is lacking in proper contextualization for these areas. For instance, the U.S. financing of the Afghan mujahideen, Mohammed Najibullah’s fall from power and the collapse of the Soviet Union are all mentioned in a matter of minutes, and without proper context, viewers can undoubtedly expect to be lost.

As a personal narrative, “Flee” undoubtedly succeeds, but as a documentary, there is plenty left to be desired. Within its own universe, the story told by the movie is definitely important, but without the proper degree of contextualization to the real world, it is hard to say how important the story truly is. Ultimately, I would give this film a 6/10. While I still overall enjoyed the experience, the occasional narrative jankiness of “Flee” holds back a compelling story from seeing its full potential.

culture@dailynebraskan.com