#TIFF21: “FLEE” REVIEW
Review by David Baldwin
FLEE is one of the most celebrated and talked about films of the year. It won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Documentary at Sundance this past January and has been on the tip of nearly every Oscar Blogger’s tongue ever since. The Film is a mostly animated tale telling the “true story” of Amin, who fled Afghanistan with his family during the 1980s in search of a better life and ended up being separated from just about everyone.
To say that FLEE is extraordinary is an understatement. What Writer/Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen has committed to film is a vital and emotionally eviscerating exploration of the refugee experience, told in an unbelievably compelling fashion. Rather than stitch together narration over a series of real life news clips, Rasmussen and his team have concocted a script that tackles a huge, sprawling timeline that feels wonderfully suited for the material covered. The animation style is mostly hand drawn, though it differs in terms of crudeness at certain intervals. By factoring in the constant narration from Amin and his discussions with high school friend Rasmussen, FLEE bypasses the trappings and melodramatic recreations of other documentaries of its ilk and instead creates a uniquely animated experience that will no doubt influence a generation of Documentary Filmmakers to come.
For me, FLEE is a masterwork that needs to be seen to be believed. Full stop. Yet I found myself at odds with the narration of the piece, which alternates between being incredibly somber and intensely distressing. There is no real inflection given to anything said aloud here (though to be fair, I did not expect there to be much), and the tone sounds the exact same no matter the context. I found myself being lulled to sleep more than once, despite how invested I was in this incredibly relevant story. This is original and bold work worthy of the praise it is has received – and I wish the narration better reflected that.
FLEE screens at TIFF ’21:
Tue, Sep 14 Ontario Place Cinesphere 4:00 PM
Tue, Sep 14 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 9:00 PM
Fri, Sep 17 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 3:00 PM