'Flee' shows there are many ways to get to the truth
The Danish film Flee made history a few weeks ago when it became the first movie ever nominated for Oscars for Best Documentary Feature, International Feature, and Animated Feature, all at the same time. And if it weren’t for Summer of Soul, which you’d figure is a near-lock to win the documentary award, Flee might have a decent shot to win both that and the animation category, and if all the cards fall just right, it still could.
Obviously, this is not something we often talk about, an animated documentary, but with this movie, it’s not just a stylistic approach, it’s actually a brilliant way to tell this story that necessarily must conceal its subject’s identity. It’s about Amin, an Afghan refugee who’s gained asylum in Denmark under false pretenses, and who risks deportation if that’s discovered. His story has, to this point, been a secret, and the movie offers animated recreations of his flight from his home country to Copenhagen along with interviews with Amin about his ordeal. On top of that, Amin is gay, and is coming from a society that he says didn’t even have a word for such a thing.
The capacity for a person to keep going under the most extreme circumstances is always astounding, and seeing such a specific and immediate telling of the one-step-forward-four-steps-back journey of a refugee through constant danger and finally to safety is extraordinary and rewarding. But even more than that, this is the story of a man working through who, exactly, he can be now that he's not in the same dire situation—even though the existential danger ended for him years ago, the residue of that trauma and his need to conceal his true story has taken such deep root in him that he struggles to anchor himself to who or what he "really" is now. It all results in a smart, compassionate, complex, difficult tale of a child fleeing civil war, the extremely trying path of a refugee, and the hidden life of a gay man, any one piece of which would make for its own riveting documentary. Flee is a remarkable achievement, and a perfect example of how there are many ways to get to the truth.