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Flee Review – An Afghan refugee confronts his past in a masterfully animated documentary | animation in the movie

TDanish-French filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary, in which a middle-aged academic living in Denmark relives his escape from Afghanistan as a boy, is emerging as a key contender for an award. Within the last 14 days, the film has been nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Documentary at both the Baftas and Oscars, with an additional Oscar nomination for Best International Feature Film. It’s easy to see why the film struck a chord. Address difficult issues in an emotionally engaging and stylistically adventurous way, Flee follows in the footsteps of Ari Folman’s 2008 animated award winner waltz With Bashirabout his experiences and memories of the 1982 Lebanon War, and proves once again that real “real life” storytelling requires as much artistry and invention as any drama.

Drawing on his background in radio documentaries, Rasmussen conducted a long series of intimate interviews with the pseudonymously renamed “Amin Nawabi,” whom they had known since middle school but who had kept his past to himself. I’ll leave it to the film to explain why Amin’s story went untold for so long; Suffice to say, an air of discovery is palpable as Rasmussen’s subject gradually reveals himself, finally expressing the long-hidden trauma.

The key to Amin’s openness is the animated format, which allows him to talk about his life without giving up his anonymity. His memories are vivid, full of detail that translates beautifully to the screen: flying kites and listening to music on headphones on the streets of Kabul; looking at posters by Jean-Claude Van Damme with dawning longing; Witnessing his father’s stoic courage when the mujahideen come to visit. These scenes are rendered in sharp, no-frills 2D animation that sometimes reminds me of the bold, approachable imagery of Belgian cartoonist Hergé, or the doting melancholy of UK-based Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit (The Red Turtle).

That clarity gives way to something altogether more impressionistic and abstract as Amin recalls the horrors he and his family endured fleeing Afghanistan to Moscow and beyond. While news reports of the unspeakable torment endured by desperate refugees have become chillingly commonplace, Amin’s account of human trafficking is dramatically amplified by the nightmarish imagery conjured up by Copenhagen-based Sun Creature Studio. Whether it’s phantasmagorical visions of drowning when an overcrowded boat is caught in a storm, or the claustrophobia of being trapped in a sealed shipping container, Flee had my palms sweating with fear during the most harrowing sequences.

Yet what emerges from this remarkable story is not a victim story, but a coming-of-age tale that spans a lifetime. Amin is physically displaced by the events of his early life, and his sense of identity has been similarly fractured. In the film’s opening sentence, we learn that Amin (who is in his mid-30s) is struggling to accept the prospect of an idyllic life in the country with his longtime partner Kasper. Does the key to unlocking the future lie in confronting the ghosts of the past? At least that’s what it looks like Flee draws an arc from secrecy to openness, which seems to signal a great relief. No wonder Rasmussen gives his subject the honor of an “original screenplay” – this is a tale of the triumph of the human spirit as dramatic as the finest melodrama, with flashes from old newsreels to remind us that everything was “real”. is.

Just as Max Richter’s haunting score turned out to be so powerful Waltz with Bashir, Swedish composer Uno Helmersson offers a lyrical accompaniment to Amin’s story, where his goose bumps (featuring violinist Mari Samuelsen) meet pop tracks that play a transformative role. I’ve never been a fan of Norwegian chart-toppers A-ha, but I’ve seen them Flee I can’t get their anthem Take on Me (the video for which they famously mixed live action with animation) out of my head.

In UK cinemas Flee (with Riz Ahmed credited as Executive Producer) will be released in subtitled and dubbed versions. I’ve seen the former and would heartily recommend it, although anything that expands the film’s mainstream appeal is to be welcomed.

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