The argument may very well be made that each nationwide border is arbitrary. Folks have fought over them, and other people have died for them, however—who made them? The ability to concoct a line that retains some inside and others outdoors is uncommon and rarified, and the inclusion vs. exclusion that’s established by that geography has in flip formed the world. A rustic is usually a residence, and a house could be erased, and the aching, beautiful “Flee” trafficks within the house between belonging and wandering.
Evocatively animated in a mode that’s visually sparse however emotionally vibrant, with a robust sense of movement and interiority, “Flee” is written and directed by filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen. As a teen rising up in Copenhagen, Denmark, Rasmussen turned buddies with an equally aged Afghan refugee named Amin. Amin had fled Afghanistan after the Mujahideen grew extra highly effective throughout the First Afghan Civil Battle of the 1980s and 1990s, and arrived in Copenhagen alone. The 2 turned buddies, staying in contact as Rasmussen pursued filmmaking and as Amin pursued his doctoral diploma. After they reconnect for the documentary “Flee,” it’s as adults able to look again upon the previous with a mix of honesty, wistfulness, and resignation (from Amin) and curiosity and endurance (Rasmussen). “This can be a true story,” an intertitle states at the start and the movie honors a load of that assertion with an engrossing story that’s as unflinching as it’s—by an amazing quantity of human will—hopeful.
“Flee”‘s setup is simple, with Rasmussen guiding Amin ahead in dialog, however, the strategy is rarely simplistic. The lads’ friendship and familiarity with one another permit for a stage of intimate expression that offers the movie its simultaneous specificity and approachability. Scraps of reminiscences are typically all we now have of the individuals we beloved and misplaced, and Amin compiles them collectively to discuss his deep bond together with his household, his wrestle to reconcile his sexuality together with his conservative cultural background, and the trauma of being stateless. Every one of his accounts begins the identical method, with an animated model of Amin—brown-skinned, close-shaved, with a beard, a gold chain, and a world-weary look—laying down on a sofa, staring forward, and gazing instantly towards us. That perspective of Amin trying up and us trying down creates a steadiness wherein we’re an energetic participant, and as Amin slides into reminiscence and transforms right into a youthful model of himself, we go too. (There are lots of causes to pair “Flee” with this 12 months’ different refugee-focused movie “Limbo,” and their shared experimentation with the liminal high quality of time is the main one.)
Again to Afghanistan, the place Amin’s comfortable childhood (flying kites with one among his brothers, spending time within the kitchen together with his mom) is upended by civil struggle and by his father’s disappearance after being taken by the Mujahideen. The outlines of gray collapsing buildings and beige working civilians shift and soften whereas resistance fighters seem as solidly black, scratchily-shaded-in varieties, each in distinction to Amin’s brightly dressed relations and cozily adorned household residence. To Russia, the place Amin spent dreary, tedious years as an adolescent: The color palette desaturated, the motion in these characters diminished, their facial expressions dampened. Again to present-day Copenhagen, the place Amin’s boyfriend Kasper hits the partitions and limits Amin has constructed around himself. And, slowly, to a different model of Amin’s previous that Rasmussen, by gently guiding questions, steadily unravels. “I simply must get one factor straight,” Rasmussen asks, and the pause he takes in between that assertion and his following question is an entire world of poised chance.
The place “Flee” then goes reveals a variety of bleak truths concerning the hole between the “first” and “third” worlds and concerning the determined measures individuals will danger for the prospect at a “higher” life. Refreshingly, “Flee” additionally makes a house contemplate what “higher” means and by whose requirements we assign that designation. What does residing one’s reality matter if we’re on their lonesome within the course of? What vulnerability can we select to permit ourselves, and what grace? A lot of animated standout scenes drive these concepts residence: a harried stroll by a forest, its bushes so tall they infringe upon the evening sky; a claustrophobic, vertigo-inducing scene in a container truck, our perspective spinning round to survey the tight quarters; a gathering between a ship of refugees and a ship of vacationers that’s harrowing and heartbreaking within the contrasting expressions on these individuals’ faces. When “Flee” slips from animation to dwell motion, it’s Rasmussen’s reminder of the truth of this story, and when he contains the arguments between himself and Amin concerning the path of the documentary, that’s actuality, too.
“We miscommunicate,” Amin says of a dialog he had in his adolescence with an Iranian man talking Farsi whereas he, an Afghan, spoke Dari, however that assertion is broader than two individuals and two languages. What are all of the methods we fail to or refuse to, perceive one other particular person? How does that decay into violence, dehumanization, negligence, into the struggle? And when these gaps are mounted, what pleasure, what acceptance, and what love could be discovered? “Flee,” asks these questions after which listens to their solutions with open ears, open eyes, and an open coronary heart, and the documentary is one among this 12 months finest.