Flee (film)

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Flee
A group of animated people.
Promotional release poster
DanishFlugt
Directed byJonas Poher Rasmussen
Screenplay by
  • Jonas Poher Rasmussen
  • Amin Nawabi
Produced by
CinematographyMauricio Gonzalez-Aranda
Edited byJanus Billeskov Jansen
Music byUno Helmersson
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 28, 2021 (2021-01-28) (Sundance)
  • December 3, 2021 (2021-12-03) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes[2]
Countries
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Norway
  • Sweden
Languages
Budget$3.4 million[3]
Box office$727,973[4][5]

Flee (Danish: Flugt) is a 2021 adult animated documentary film directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. An international co-production with Denmark, France, Norway, and Sweden, it follows the story of a man under the alias Amin Nawabi, who shares his hidden past of fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark for the first time. Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau serve as executive producers and narrators for the English-language dub version.

The film had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 28, 2021, where it won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary section. It was released in theaters in the United States on December 3, 2021, by Neon and Participant.[6]

While the film received acclaim from film festivals and critics, it incorporates archival film footage of events in Afghanistan from the time Amin fled.[7] The film was frequently ranked one of the best films of 2021,[8][9][10][11] and garnered numerous accolades, mainly for animated and documentary categories including Best Feature Film at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and Best Animated Feature — Independent at 49th Annie Awards, both making the first animated documentary film to win.

The film was selected as the Danish entry for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film,[12] where it received one of the five finalists and became the second foreign-language animated film after Waltz with Bashir (2008), along with nominations in the Best Documentary Feature and Best Animated Feature categories, becoming the first film ever to be nominated in all three of those categories at the same ceremony.

Plot[edit]

"The film is presented in the form of an animated documentary; animated scenes depict Amin's past and present, interspersed with archival footage."

Amin Nawabi is being interviewed in Denmark by director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, who has known Amin since they were teenagers. Jonas is making a documentary about Amin's life, including his escape from Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. Amin has not shared the full details of his story with anyone, including his boyfriend Kasper, whom he plans to marry. The trauma of his past affects Amin's ability to settle down, and he considers a position away from Kasper in the United States as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University.

Amin begins by sharing stories of his childhood in Kabul with his mother Tahera, sisters Fahima and Sabia, and his older brother Saif. Amin's father is not in their life, having been imprisoned as a perceived threat following the outbreak of the Soviet-Afghan War. Saif is forced to flee from police regularly to avoid being drafted to fight. After the Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan, the family flees Kabul due to the impending invasion by mujahideen forces. They fly to Russia, where they meet Amin's oldest brother Abbas, who is currently living in Sweden having fled Afghanistan years earlier. Abbas arranges for human traffickers to smuggle the family to Sweden. While waiting to leave Russia, they are forced to stay indoors, as they are staying in the country illegally. Amin's sisters are the first to be smuggled, being placed on a freight container on a cargo ship with dozens of other refugees. The two survive but are traumatized due to the difficulty of the journey.

In the present, Jonas expresses surprise that Amin's siblings are still alive and living in Sweden, having previously thought Amin had no living family. Amin reveals that he keeps the truth hidden for fear he will be sent back to Afghanistan if it is revealed that he did not come to Denmark as an orphaned refugee as he claimed. Amin and Kasper tour a prospective house for them to live in after they are married; Kasper expresses concern about Amin's ability to stay in one place for an extended period. In the past, Amin, Saif, and Tahera flee Russia by truck with a group of fellow refugees. The group boards a boat that will bring them to Sweden across the Baltic Sea. The boat encounters bad weather during the trip, causing the engine to die. After several days adrift, they are discovered by a Norwegian cruise ship. Amin and his family are held captive in Estonia for six months before being deported back to Russia.

In the present, Amin decides to accept the position at Princeton, causing an argument between him and Kasper; he leaves and stays at Jonas's home. In the past, Tahera falls sick after their return to Russia. Saif takes responsibility for the family, deciding to send Amin out of Russia first using more expensive but more reliable smugglers, who tell him he must say he is an orphan to avoid being deported back to Afghanistan. Amin makes it to Ukraine, but is sent on a flight to Copenhagen rather than Sweden. Once there, he turns himself over to the authorities as a refugee and makes contact with Abbas, who instructs him to continue to lie about his family members being killed. Several years later, Amin visits Abbas and his sisters in Stockholm. After admitting to them that he is gay, Abbas takes him to a gay club, telling him that the family always knew about his sexuality.

In the present, Jonas visits Amin in New York City, where he expresses a desire to settle down, having constantly been on guard throughout his life. He returns to Denmark, where he reunites with Kasper. Four months later, the two are married and have purchased a house together.

An epilogue reveals that Amin's brother and mother eventually escaped Russia and that the fate of their father still remains unknown.

Voice cast[edit]

  • Amin Nawabi as Himself (present day)
    • Daniel Karimyar as Amin (9-11)
    • Fardin Mijdzadeh as Amin (15-18)
  • Jonas Poher Rasmussen as Himself
  • Kasper (Amin's boyfriend) as Himself
  • Belal Faiz as Saif (13-19)
    • Milad Eskandari as Saif (8)
  • Zahra Mehrwarz as Fahima (28)
    • Elaha Faiz as Fahima (13-26)
  • Sadia Faiz as Sabia (16-26)

A number of the voice cast members are credited as anonymous, including the voice of Amin at ages 13–15, Abbas, Akthar Nawabi, Tahera, and young Tahera.

Production[edit]

In January 2021, it was announced Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau would serve as executive producers on the film, and narrate an English-language dub version of the film.[13]

Animation[edit]

The core animation team behind the film consisted of around ten animators and cleanup artists in Denmark, as well as a team of coloring artists in France. Each scene would go through a rough pass of animation where the team checked the acting of the characters and the intention. Once Poher Rasmussen approved it, the animators would tighten up the drawings in terms of the look of characters. The cleanup team would then check for the correct brushwork — meant to seem inky and sketchy as if from a graphic novel to give maturity to the line work — before finally shipping it off to the coloring team to embellish the characters. “It was a pretty big machinery,” noted Ladekjær.[14]

Release[edit]

Flee had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 28, 2021.[15] Shortly after, Neon/Participant, Curzon Artificial Eye and Haut et Court acquired US, British and French distribution rights respectively.[1][16][17] The film was initially set to have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2020, but the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18] It was also screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2021 New York Film Festival in September 2021.[19]

The film was released in select theaters for New York and Los Angeles by NEON and Participant on December 3, 2021[20] with a nationwide expansion on January 21, 2022.[21] The film became available on Hulu on February 8, 2022.[22]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film earned $24,794 from four theaters for a per screen average of $6,198.[23]

Critical response[edit]

Flee received widespread critical acclaim, with Sundance juror Kim Longinotto calling it "an instant classic" at the festival's awards ceremony.[24] It holds a 98% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 193 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10. The critics consensus reads "Depicting the refugee experience through vivid animation, Flee pushes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking to present a moving memoir of self-discovery."[25] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 91 out of 100 based on reviews from 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[26] It is also the sixth best reviewed film of 2021 in the website, as well the best reviewed animated film of that year.[27]

Metacritic reported that Flee appeared on over 33 film critics' top-ten lists for 2021, one of only two animated films to appear on the list for the year, alongside The Mitchells vs. the Machines. The film ranked first and second on two lists.[28]

Parasite director Bong Joon-ho listed Flee as one of his favorite films of 2021,[29] and wrote a letter, calling it "The most moving piece of cinema I saw this year."[30]

UK Film Review gave a 5-star rating.[31] BBC listed as one of the twenty best films of 2021.[32] Flee also ranked as the seventh best film of 2021 in an IndieWire poll to 187 critics and journalists.[33]

Accolades[edit]

At Sundance, Flee won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary section.[34] The film was subsequently screened at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, where it won Best Feature Film.[34]

At the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, the film was second runner-up for the People's Choice Award for Documentaries.[35] It is also nominated for two Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, for Best Feature and Best Director.[36]

The film won NBR Freedom of Expession and one of the top documentaries at National Board of Review,[37] a nomination for Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature, earned two categories for British Academy Film Awards, won an Annie Award for the Best Animated Feature — Independent and four Dorian Awards.

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Sundance Film Festival February 3, 2021 World Cinema Documentary Competition Flee Won [38]
Annecy International Animation Film Festival June 19, 2021 Best Feature Won [39]
Gan Foundation Award for Distribution Won
Best Original Music for a Feature Film Uno Helmersson Won
Toronto International Film Festival September 18, 2021 People's Choice Award for Documentaries Flee Runner-up [35]
CLIT International Film Festival October 17, 2021 Best Feature - Ativa-te! category Won [40]
Out on Film October 22, 2021 Best International Film - Audience Award Won [41]
Montclair Film Festival November 2, 2021 Audience Award for World Cinema Won [42]
Bruce Sinofsky Prize for Documentary Feature Jonas Poher Rasmussen Won
Newport Beach Film Festival November 3, 2021 Best Animated Feature - Audience Award Flee Won [43]
Critics' Choice Documentary Awards November 14, 2021 Best Documentary Feature Nominated [36]
Best Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen Nominated
Manchester Animation Festival November 25, 2021 Best Feature Film Flee Won [44]
Gotham Independent Film Awards November 29, 2021 Best Documentary Feature Won [45]
National Board of Review December 3, 2021 Top Documentaries Won [37]
NBR Freedom of Expession Won
New York Film Critics Circle December 3, 2021 Best Non-Fiction Film Won [46]
Detroit Film Critics Society December 6, 2021 Best Documentary Won (Tied with "Summer of Soul") [47]
Best Animated Feature Nominated
British Independent Film Awards December 5, 2021 Best International Independent Film Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Amin Nawabi, Monica Hellstrøm, Signe Byrge Sørensen Won [48]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards December 6, 2021 Best Animated Feature Flee Nominated [49]
Best Documentary Nominated
European Film Awards December 11, 2021 Best Documentary Film Won [50]
Best Animated Feature Film Won
European University Film Award Won [51]
New York Film Critics Online December 12, 2021 Best Documentary Won [52]
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards December 12, 2021 Best Animated Film Won [53][54]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards December 15, 2021 Best Animated Film Won [55]
Best Documentary Film Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards December 18, 2021 Best Animated Film Won [56]
Utah Film Critics Association December 18, 2021 Best Animated Film Won [57]
Non-English Language Feature Won
Best Documentary Runner-up
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards December 19, 2021 Best Animated Film Nominated [58]
Best Documentary Won
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists Association December 20, 2021 Best Animated Film Won [59]
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 20, 2021 Best Foreign Language Film Runner-up [60]
Best Documentary Film Runner-up
Russell Smith Award Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards December 22, 2021 Best Documentary Film Nominated [61]
Best Animated Film Runner-up
National Society of Film Critics January 8, 2022 Best Non-Fiction Film Won [62]
Golden Globe Awards January 9, 2022 Best Animated Feature Nominated [63]
San Diego Film Critics Society January 10, 2021 Best Animated Film Runner-up [64]
Best Documentary Runner-up
San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle January 10, 2022 Best Documentary Feature Nominated [65]
Best Animated Feature Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association January 11, 2022 Best Animated Film Nominated [66]
Best Documentary Nominated
Georgia Film Critics Association January 14, 2022 Best Picture Nominated [67]
Best Animated Film Nominated
Best Documentary Film Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association January 16, 2022 Best Animated Film Won [68]
Best Documentary Film Runner-up
North Dakota Film Society January 17, 2022 Best Picture Nominated [69]
Best Animated Feature Nominated
Best Documentary Feature Won
Best International Feature Won
Denver Film Critics Society January 17, 2022 Best Animated Film Won [70]
Non-English Language Feature Nominated
Best Documentary Nominated
Seattle Film Critics Society January 17, 2022 Best Animated Film Won [71]
Non-English Language Feature Nominated
Best Documentary Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Awards January 19, 2022 Best Animated Feature Film Nominated [72]
Best Documentary Feature Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Awards January 24, 2022 Best Documentary Nominated [73]
Best Animated Feature Nominated
Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards January 2022 Best Documentary Flee Won [74]
Best Animated Film Nominated
Best Non-English-Language Film Nominated
Robert Awards February 5, 2022 Best Documentary Feature Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen, Charlotte de la Gournerie and Jonas Poher Rasmussen Won [75]
Best Editing Janus Billeskov Jansen Won
Best Sound Design Edward Björner and Tormod Ringnes Won
Best Score Uno Helmersson Won
London Film Critics Circle Awards February 6, 2022 Documentary of the Year Flee Nominated [76]
Technical Achievement Award Kenneth Ladekjær (animation) Nominated
Cinema Eye Honors March 1, 2022 Outstanding Non-Fiction Feature Feature Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström and Signe Byrge Sørensen Won [77]
Audience Choice Prize Jonas Poher Rasmussen Nominated
Outstanding Direction Nominated
Outstanding Production Monica Hellström and Signe Byrge Sørensen Nominated
Outstanding Original Score Uno Helmersson Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design Edward Björner and Tormod Ringnes Nominated
Outstanding Graphic Design/Animation Kenneth Ladekjær Won
The Unforgettables Amin Won
American Cinema Editors Awards March 5, 2022 Best Edited Documentary – Feature Janus Billeskov Jansen Nominated [78]
Independent Spirit Awards March 6, 2022 Best Documentary Feature Flee Nominated [79]
Annie Awards March 12, 2022 Best Animated Feature — Independent Won [80]
Outstanding Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Kenneth Ladekjær Nominated
Outstanding Achievement for Editorial in an Animated Feature Production Janus Billeskov Jansen Nominated
Outstanding Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Production Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Amin Nawabi Nominated
British Academy Film Awards March 13, 2022 Best Animated Film Flee Nominated [81]
Best Documentary Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards March 13, 2022 Best Animated Feature Nominated [82]
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
Golden Reel Awards March 13, 2022 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Documentary Edward Björner, Jens Johansson, Fredrik Jonsäter, Rune Van Deurs, Bengt Öberg Nominated [83]
Dorian Awards March 17, 2022 Best LGBTQ Film Flee Won [84]
Best Animated Film Won
Best Documentary Won
Best LGBTQ Documentary Won
Best Non-English Language Film Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards March 19, 2022 Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Pictures Nominated [85]
Bodil Awards March 19, 2022 Best Documentary Won [86]
Bodil Special Award Kenneth Ladekjær (animator) and Jess Nicholls (art director) Won
Academy Awards March 27, 2022 Best Animated Feature Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie Nominated [87]
Best Documentary Feature Nominated
Best International Feature Film Denmark Nominated
GLAAD Media Awards April 2, 2022 Outstanding Documentary Flee Nominated [88]
Satellite Awards April 2, 2022 Best Animated or Mixed Media Film Nominated [89]
Best Documentary Film Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
European Film Awards December 10, 2022 Lux Award Pending [90]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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