Refugee’s odyssey in remarkable Flee

Stunning piece of drama – featuring animation and archive footage – is much more than a true story

Thursday, 10th February — By Dan Carrier


Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen

A LETTER from Princeton University arrives. Inside there is an offer to join the faculty and undertake post-doctoral research. It is a dream job for Amin Nawabi – so why does the idea of heading from Denmark to the USA worry him? Why is it tangled up with his feelings for his boyfriend Kaspar and a fear of settling down?

A gentle three-minute scene setting opens the narrative of Flee, Jonas Rasmussen’s true story about the journey a friend of his took as a child across continents to find safety.

We learn how leaving Afghanistan as a small child after the Mujahedeen drove the USSR from Kabul left him with a 20-year secret he could not reveal, and how this would impact on his relationship with the man he loves.

Rasmussen has a background in radio journalism. He was intrigued by his close friend and classmate’s story of how he escaped Kabul – and so they began to tape his recollections.

Using a mixture of different forms of animation, and archive footage to cleverly illustrate a contextual political point, he has used these interviews to edit together dialogue. What unfolds is a stunning piece of drama.

Amin’s father was arrested by gun-toting militia who took over Kabul when the Russians left. He disappeared three months after his arrest.

Then older brother is chased by Army press gangs and the family know they cannot stay any longer.

A flight to Moscow on temporary visas is only the start of a journey that crosses borders and continents. It is a world where the most vulnerable are the most exploited – be it by crooked cops or people traffickers. The Nawabis have to take drastic action to get to a country where they will not be sent back to Afghanistan and death.

We follow them on their journey, and discover what this experience has meant to Amin.

Flee, however, is more than the true story of what a refugee faces to simply fulfil the most basic of human needs, that of keeping our family safe. Other elements cleverly intertwine.

This is about family bonds, and how Amin’s love for his mother and siblings has affected a fundamental part of his personal life. It gives the plot another axis to spin on.

Flee is exceptional in its production, a work of exquisite modern art. It marries this visual bombardment with a story of the human condition in extraordinary circumstances, and does it with grace, occasional humour, depth and understanding. Nominated for three Oscars, there has not been a better made or more engaging movie in the past 12 months. Remarkable.

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