Annecy 2021: Flee, survival at human height [critique]

After his card at Sundance, Flee is screened at the Annecy festival. An animated documentary on the refugee crisis. A great success.

Initially selected at Cannes 2020, Flee finally had to wait until last January to be showered with praise. Acclaimed at the Sundance Festival, the film by Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen was screened this week in Annecy, in competition. The true story of Amin, an Afghan who had to flee his country in the late 1980s as a child, when the mujahideen took power. At 36, he is now a university student in Denmark, and in a relationship with a man. This crazy trajectory is told in the form of an animated documentary (Amin has agreed to confide for the first time on his true passed to his director friend, met at school, but did not want to show his face). Flee therefore alternates between semi-realistic drawings (most of the film), scribbled and drafts (the scenes Amin has trouble remembering, or the worst passages of his life) and archival images in real shots.

The effect is striking and immersive, a perfect marriage of form and substance. Shot live, Flee would have certainly worked. But the animation reinforces all the staging choices: even the sequences “facing the camera” between the director and Amin – which could easily have been the exploitation of emotion in another format – here take on an unexpected evocative force.

Alternately heartbreaking survival film and emancipation story, Flee evokes both the refugee crisis and the fact of growing up being homosexual in a country that does not tolerate it. It is also a great universal thriller, never tearful, about the violence of uncertainty and chaos in the world. The story of a man haunted by his past and his forced lies. Alone, on the ruins of his memories. A master stroke.

Flee is expected to air on Arte at the end of the year.

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