He escaped death, fled across the Baltic, and eventually found love and a new life. Jonas Poher Rasmussen describes how he turned Amin’s often harrowing story into an uplifting, award-winning animation

When the Danish film-maker Jonas Poher Rasmussen was 15, an Afghan refugee moved to his small village. Rumours circulated about how the boy, Amin, had got there. Some said he had walked all the way from Kabul, others that he had seen his whole family slaughtered. Rasmussen became the newcomer’s friend and confidant – Amin even came out to him as gay when they were teenagers – and their closeness endured into adulthood. When they both suffered bad break-ups in their 20s, for instance, Rasmussen went to stay with Amin; they refer to that period now as “the heartbreak summer”. He still didn’t know the truth about how his friend came to Denmark, though, so he did what any documentarist might do: he proposed making a film about him. Amin refused to reveal his identity on screen – but what if the film were animated?

The result is Flee, which alternates between scenes of Rasmussen interviewing his friend, dramatisations of Amin’s perilous journey to Copenhagen via Moscow, and present-day interludes showing him househunting with his boyfriend in which the concept of settling down presents unique challenges for someone who has spent his life running. Aside from the occasional excerpt of archive footage – the war-scarred streets of Kabul, the unruly waves seen from a boat smuggling people across the Baltic – every frame of the movie is animated, most of it in a simple, straightforwardly realistic fashion that matches Amin’s narration.

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