International Title: Flee — Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen.
The Danish submission for the upcoming 94th Academy Awards, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flugt, is a mostly-animated documentary film about the experience of one refugee on his bumpy outer journey from Afghanistan via Eastern Europe to Denmark, as well as his complicated inner journey toward acceptance of himself so that he can open up to others and become the man that he wants to be, instead of running away from the sense of normalcy that he may desperately need.
I thought this was, frankly, a brilliant documentary. It isn’t just one of the best documentary films of 2021, it’s one of the best films of 2021. The story is told by the central refugee, Amin, as he pours his heart out to an interviewer, most of the time while lying down in an almost therapeutic position. And every once in a while, we get further glimpses into his life today (meeting his partner, chasing the career he wants for himself, and seeing him struggle to settle down).
It moves effortlessly and seamlessly from the relatively simple but good-looking style of the animation to select archival footage and other images of real life, but the story is mostly communicated through the animation. Even the interviewer is animated, and so is Amin’s partner. Amin’s memories are recreated through evocative animation, and the documentary does a good job of communicating that Amin is trying to recall repressed memories.
It is an eye-opening and frightening story about making your way through the world without being able to be who you really are. There are moments when it had me on the edge of my seat due to the danger Amin and his family were in, but there are also some really sweet moments that brought a smile to my face. In general, it is undeniably a deeply emotionally involving film, it never feels artificial, and, I think, it is going to sit with you and give you a better understanding of what it is like to be a refugee. Just as it may provide you with a better understanding of Afghanistan as a whole.
The things that I loved the most about this documentary, though, were the deeply personal moments where Amin decided to open up about who he has always been (I loved the use of 80s music and his memory of liking Jean-Claude Van Damme), and tears of relief and happiness welled up in my eyes when his family showed understanding. There are some really special and unforgettable moments here, and I have to say that the nightclub scene towards the end of the film is one of my favorite scenes of any movie in 2021.
Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary Flugt is an enlightening, evocative, and eye-opening film about a refugee and his identity — leaving it behind to survive and trying to reclaim it later in life. It is both a beautiful, heartbreaking, and harrowing film and probably my pick for the best documentary of 2021.
9 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.