What is it like to be a refugee seeking a new life, coping with the need for self-preservation while confronting horrors along with way? Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee is a docudrama of the actul life of a fictionalized Amin Nawabi (voiced by Daniel Karimyar at ages 9-11, Fardin Mijdzadeh at ages 15-18, and Rashid Aitouganov today) and based on someone whom Rasmussen once met in middle school Denmark and remained friends after he became a film director. The form of the film is largely animation of the story, with occasional archival film footage. Animation not only confers privacy to Amin but cuts the cost of trying to reproduce scenes that would be almost impossible to reconstruct.

Psychologically challenged by his experience, Amin begins the film in an apparent psychiatric interview, revealing secrets of his life that were suppressed for his survival and thus never before admitted to anyone. The first question asks Amin to recall his earliest days. The chronological account continues to 1989, when the Taliban have achieved victory in the Afghan Civil War, and his father is arrested, never to be seen again. The rest of the family then seeks to find home in another country as refugees. On foot, they enter Russia and continue to Estonia, where they take a boat for Sweden, where other relatives have been living. However, Estonian authorities stop the voyage, and they are soon back in Russia. At that point the family realizes that they must pay a human trafficker to do the job, and they only have funds for one. Amin in chosen. He is to fly from Russia to Denmark under a false identity.

Facts matter but emotions are predominant because tragic events occur each segment of his life. Fleeing on foot proves too much exercise for a grandmother. Facilities are stark whenever the family is held after arrest for illegal entry, and disaster nearly results when Amin once leaves a compound. To leave Russia, Amin must assume a new identity with a Russian passport and pretend to be someone else upon arrival in Copenhagen, where he is assigned foster parents. He must cope alone while seeking to reunite with relatives who earlier went to Sweden and await the rest in Denmark.

Meanwhile, Flee is also a coming-of-age saga. , In Kabul, he is wearing female clothes while playing in the street As a teenager in Denmark, he seeks medicine because he is attracted to boys more than girls and does not want to be a disgrace to his family. However, his older brother takes him to a gay bar and assures him that his gay tendencies were well known. Ultimately, he finds Kasper, a gay partner, and becomes an academic. The final scene is a happier ending than filmviewers expect!

The genius of the film is to lay out steps in a perilous journey that a decent refugee encounters, tears and all. Political Film Society has nominated Flee for an award as best film on human rights of 2021.  MH     

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