Animated documentary ‘Flee’ deserves the accolades

Get familiar with this underseen doc before Oscar night

Brad Keefe
"Flee"

This week, one of the films most universally loved by critics in 2021 finally hits theaters, and who am I to disagree with a universe of critics?

The animated documentary “Flee” premiered almost a year ago to the day at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, winning the festival’s World Cinema Documentary Competition. It’s also the Danish entry for Best International Film at this year’s Oscars, as well as shortlisted for Best Documentary (and seems likely to get both nods when the nominees are announced on Feb. 8). It also has a good shot to add Best Animated Feature.

I didn’t catch “Flee” as part of my virtual Sundance, but now I can add it to the list of truly remarkable films that debuted there last year.

“Flee” recounts the story of Amin Nawabi, who is living in Denmark and about to marry his husband. His story spans 20 years from his childhood living as a refugee in Afghanistan, through his immigrant journey and including a long-held secret that raises his tension over his new life and impending marriage.

Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen casts Amin’s remarkable story as an engrossing narrative. The storytelling alone in the (subtitled) film is worth the ride.

The film opens with Rasmussen asking Amin what home means to him. ““Home?” he replies. “Home is somewhere safe.” He then confesses, remarkably, that he’s never told anyone the story he’s about to tell. “Amin” is a pseudonym, and the film’s combination of occasional live-action footage but mostly rotoscope-style animation has altered his image.

While the animation is outstanding and a great decision to visually tell a difficult story, Rasmussen actually conceived the project as an audio documentary. The voice work is similarly compelling.

I want to give this one a second viewing to fully digest, but this isn’t just a film for Oscar completists, even if its name is likely to come up a lot that night. It’s even been in the discussion for Best Picture, a feat no documentary has ever accomplished. Now’s your chance to see why it may deserve just that.

“Flee”

Now playing at the Drexel Theater and Gateway Film Center

4 stars out of 5