Flee, survival at ground level [critique]

After his hit at Sundance, Flee won the Cristal for feature film at the Annecy 2021 festival. This documentary on the refugee crisis is coming to Arte and in replay. And it is a great success.

Initially selected at Cannes 2020, Flee finally had to wait until January 2021 to be showered with praise. Acclaimed at the Sundance festival, the film by Dane Jonas Poher Rasmussen triumphed last June in Annecy. The true story of Amin, an Afghan who had to flee his country at the end of the 80s when he was only a child, when the mujahideen seized 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 agreed to confide for the first time on his true passed on to his director friend, met at school, but didn’t want to show his face). Flee therefore alternates between semi-realistic drawings (most of the film), scribbled and drafts (the scenes that Amin has trouble remembering, or the worst passages of his life) and archival footage in real shots.

The effect is striking and immersive, a perfect marriage of form and substance. Filmed live, Flee would definitely have 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 exploited in another format – take on an unexpectedly evocative force here.

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

Flee will be broadcast this evening on Arte, and it is also available in replay on the channel’s website until July 28.

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