The team behind FLEE in conversation with TIFF in advance of its premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. In this poignant animated documentary from Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen, a man shares his journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9 to 18, 2021. For more, visit http://tiff.net.
FLEE uses animation to tell the story of Amin Nawabi (a pseudonym), who fled Afghanistan as a boy. He relied on human smugglers to reach Denmark, where he now lives. Filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen met Nawabi when they were both in high school. Now in his thirties, Nawabi shares stories about his life’s journey that he’s never revealed before, describing the conditions that forced his family to escape Afghanistan, how he became separated from his siblings in Russia, and how he came of age as a gay man in northern Europe. Animation is uniquely suited to tell this story that would be nearly impossible to visualize any other way.
Art director Jess Nicholls has described the paintings of Edward Hopper as an inspiration for framing and light composition. The film moves between different drawing styles as it shifts between present-day Denmark and other periods of Nawabi’s life, from his childhood in Kabul to months of limbo hiding in Russia. The details of Nawabi’s journey are daunting as he’s repeatedly forced into life-or-death choices. We witness him cross borders physically, emotionally, and psychologically as he learns how to confront his past and build trust in new relationships.
Despite the harrowing stakes, the film — co–executive produced by Riz Ahmed, appearing at the Festival in ENCOUNTER — finds many moments of light and humour, revelling in the joys of pop culture, young romance, and small acts of kindness. Nawabi’s courage in confronting his deepest fears is a powerful act to experience in this artful telling. Jonas Poher Rasmussen is a Danish filmmaker. His many credits include the documentaries Searching for Bill (12) and What He Did (15). Flee (21) is his latest film.