TIFF Review: 'Flee' Is a One-of-a-King Refugee Documentary Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Published Sep 20, 2021Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen knew his friend Amin (a pseudonym) was an immigrant to Denmark from Afghanistan, but he had no idea just how remarkable his story was. For starters, Amin is not a legal immigrant. He is a refugee who was smuggled into Denmark by way of Russia. He was told never to reveal his true story, and he was threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan should anyone discover his identity.
Flee is not only Amin's story of escape to safety but also a tender coming-out story of a young man in a seemingly conservative and traditional family. From the harrowing ordeal of being crammed into the cargo hold of a ship to Amin asking his social worker for medication to make him stop finding men attractive, Flee captures Amin's story with delicacy and authenticity.
The gripping and thriller-genre nature of Flee would be great fodder for a feature film or a more traditional documentary; however, Rasmussen's use of animation is decidedly well-suited. Not only does it allow for Amin's true voice to be used while preserving his anonymity, but it also brings to life his memories in a way that truly connects with audiences. The illustrations themselves are beautiful and haunting, perfectly encapsulating the danger and gravity of the situation.
Flee is a truly unique documentary that draws viewers in and brings us one step closer to understanding the plight of refugees. It also emphasizes just how fortunate many of us living in countries like Denmark and Sweden (and of course, Canada) are. The added layer of Amin's coming-out story brings universality to the film. Regardless of whether you're escaping a totalitarian regime or living a cushy life, we all still battle with self-acceptance and discovery. An incredible film, Flee deserves all of the high-praise it has received to date, and it should be a strong contender come awards season.
The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9 to 18. Get info about in-person and online screenings at the festival website. (Elevation)