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TIFF 2021 Review: Flee – “The mixing of different animation styles strengthens the emotional impact”

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An Afghan refuge living in Denmark recounts fleeing his war-torn homeland as a child in hopes for a better life for him and his family in the West.

Through animation Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen recreates behind the scenes moments with his friend and the subject of his documentary Amin Nawabi (a pseudonym); these serve as the narrative bridge for a series of memories that include the patriarch being taken away by Afghan soldiers never to be seen again, a sexual identity awakening, and the extremely dangerous interactions with human traffickers.

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Disturbing recollections are portrayed in ghostly charcoal silhouettes which emphasizes the emotional trauma that was experienced. In contrast, are the everyday and matter-of-fact situations which are colourful and detailed in the portrayal of people and settings.  The mixing of different animation styles strengthens the emotional impact of what is being depicted.

The dialogue is conversational rather than something that has gone through extensive ADR. It is a smart decision as the sonic roughness adds to the authenticity as well as the revelation of a major inaccuracy in the storytelling and the reason behind the lie. Everything is in service of portraying the physical and emotional tribulations that Nawabi has experienced on the way of discovering himself. Flee will certainly be a major contender for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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