By Nelie Diverlus
Flee sounds just like its name; the constant mode of escapism is the primary focus of this astounding film. When protagonist Amir faces pressing matters in his home country of Afghanistan, he has no choice but to escape to Denmark – forced to be a victim of human trafficking to fulfill this. Through a mixture of animation and live action, Flee teaches us the despair that follows immigration, as well as the vulnerability that comes with speaking one’s truth.
© Elevation Pictures
Set in present day between the filmmaker and his close friend, Flee launches us close to forty years prior, in the formative years of the film’s subject. The anonymous identity of the protagonist, Amin, allows him to be more vulnerable to the viewers, as he no longer fears safety and protection from exposure. Amin recalls the trauma endured from escaping Afghanistan to Denmark. Having been in hiding for a significant time of his life, Amin reveals the part of his history that have been concealed. Through learning of his tumultuous journey to Denmark, and his chilling experience with being a victim to human trafficking, this film provides raw insight into seeking refuge into a land unknown – for a chance of a better life.
Director Johan Poher Rasmussen effectively incorporates the personal nature of this story, namely by having the subject of the film be a close friend of his. The entire story feels as if it is a conversation with friends, which also allows Amir to feel more vulnerable and comfortable recounting his trauma to us. The extent of Amir’s story is rather disheartening – it is pleasing to know that he is allowed a comfortable setting to relay this. In addition to ensuring Amir’s well-being, Rasumussen skillfully conceptualizes this story through animation; adequately retaining the subject’s anonymous identity, as well as ensuring the compelling nature of the film as a whole.
“Rasumussen skillfully conceptualizes this story through animation; adequately retaining the subject’s anonymous identity, as well as ensuring the compelling nature of the film as a whole.”
As stated, the captivating animation propels the story forward, as well as adding another dimension entirely. This element, juxtaposed with live action found footage, allows us to figuratively draw the character and his experiences, without actually having to see him. The scene edits are marvellous – the story’s flow is clear and crisp, sufficiently retaining our attention and allowing us to follow along.
The tension within the film is unfathomable. Due to the stakes remaining very clear and critical, the viewer has the ability to sense some of the fears and desperations of the characters. The abysmal circumstance of Amir having to adjust to different connections, while facing harrowing moments of life-or-death, we begin to see the grim effects of having to continually live in survival mode.
“The abysmal circumstance of Amir having to adjust to different connections, while facing harrowing moments of life-or-death, we begin to see the grim effects of having to continually live in survival mode.”
In brief, Flee stunningly brings a formerly concealed story to light. Stories of those seeking refuge unbeknownst to them are rather underrepresented, and this story effectively conveys a crushing story in a manner that is clear and moving to all of us. We see the harrowing reality of escapism through Amir’s eyes, and this story has great potential to etch itself within the minds of every viewer observing.
Editor’s Note: Flee screened at TIFF ’21, as part of the TIFF DOCS programme.