Arts & Entertainment

Flee animation documentary humanizes refugee crisis

Madrid, Feb 17 (EFE).- Nine years ago, when Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen finally convinced his Afghan friend Amin Nawabi to make a record of his life in a documentary, he could never have imagined it would be nominated for three Oscars.

The animated documentary Flee, which delves deep into Nawabi’s personal life story, his past and his escape from Afghanistan, has been nominated for Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Animated Feature.

It is the first time a documentary of its kind has been nominated in all three categories.

“It’s crazy because it is really something that grew up from a conversation with a friend of mine nine years ago and at the beginning we thought it could be a short animated documentary and since it’s just been growing and growing and to suddenly stand here with three Oscar nominations, we had never seen that coming, it is really amazing and surprising and surreal,” Rasmussen tells Efe.

The director, who grew up in a small Danish town, met Amin when he first arrived in Denmark some 25 years ago.

“Already back then I was of course curious about how and why he came but he didn’t want to talk about it and I of course respected that,” says Rasmussen.

Amin had fled Afghanistan with his mother and brother to spend a few difficult years in Moscow, before being able to travel, by paying an illegal organization, to Scandinavia.

“Fifteen years ago I asked him if i could do a radio documentary, (…) he again said no but he said that he knew that he would have to share his story at some point and that when he would be ready to do it he would like to share it with me.”

It was only after attending a workshop on animated film and documentary that Rasmussen came up with the idea to tell his friend’s story through animation.

“He (Amin) was really intrigued by the fact that he could be anonymous behind animation because what you hear in the film and what you see is the very first time he talks about his story,” the director says.

Rasmussen said he wanted the film to be “as authentic as possible” while depicting Afghanistan in the 80s and Moscow in the 90s.

“It was really trying to find a style of animation that would support the testimony, (…) his voice telling the story.”

Through abstract visual realism, Flee portrays Amin’s journey, from fleeing Afghanistan to facing Russian police and his arrival to an unfamiliar country with a language completely foreign to him.

“At times when he would start to talk about things that were really hard for him to talk about, his way of talking would also change, (…) we need to see the visual side of this, it is not about what things look like but an emotion that he has inside and so with the animation it enables us to be much more expressive,” Rasmussen says.

For the director, this documentary goes beyond winning an Oscar.

“To me it is really about giving a human face to refugees. We call it a refugee crisis but really what it is is a humanitarian crisis, I think we need to treat it as such and see the human face to it and see that all these people at our borders are human beings like the rest of us with the same kind of complex stories, hopes, dreams and feelings.

“What I am really hoping for is to be able to humanize these stories.” EFE


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