Top Ten Movies of 2021 — Number Ten

Flee is both an animated film and a documentary. That simple statement of fact is integral to understanding the unique power of Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s film. The story told is that of Amin Nawabi, and he tells it himself. Interviewed by Rasmussen, a friend since their shared school days, Amin recounts the harrowing experience of escaping war-torn Afghanistan as a child, a process that took years before he found his way into the still unsettled life of a refugee in Denmark. The troubles Amin faced were further compounded by his emerging understanding that he is gay, a major taboo in his culture. Rasmussen works with animators to dramatize the events from Amin’s perspective, bringing the viewer into the ordeal in a way that would otherwise be impossible. There’s more to the choice than allowing a glimpse of the nearly unendurable conditions faced by those who are only seeking something better than a homeland damaged beyond their control. Amin shares his history only if he can remain anonymous. Amin Nawabi is a pseudonym chosen for the film, and the drawn version of him is a means to allow him to remain hidden so that his identity as a refugee doesn’t define him at a time there are legions of heartless opportunists who demonize those in need for political gain. The animation, expertly rendered, is a constant reminder that this person who has been through so much already isn’t quite done escaping from his past, and he maybe never will be. Too many of his fellow citizens of the world won’t let him. In sharing this story, and protecting the person at the heart of it, Rasmussen performs an act of vital kindness.

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