Flee ★★★

I admire the artistry in Flee, but I’m not sure the animation serves its absorbing story as well as a talking heads documentary or semi-fictionalised drama might. I feel the approach softens its impact, holding me at a slight distance, inviting me to pay more attention to its form rather than its content. It’s not entirely a bad thing, though, because I probably wouldn’t have watched this if it was a straightforward documentary. Even the little inserts of archival footage had me stressed out. And the form does provide an important cover of anonymity to Amin’s tale, which as we learn is necessary given the precariousness of his refugee status. 

Amin’s tale covers his family’s initial terror in being caught in the early stages of civil war in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, and how his father was imprisoned and never seen again. It tells how they had to flee, first to Russia before finally making it to Western Europe via people traffickers, only to end up separated in different countries. The telling is an ordeal, for the audience, and especially for Amin. It is the first time he’s told anyone outside his family about his experiences. He presents as an intelligent and sensitive man who’s been understandably damaged by everything he’s been through. But the film is also a celebration of sorts, in the way he is tentatively dropping his guard and accepting the love of his boyfriend on the long road towards a simpler and happier future. 

NZIFF 2021

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