Tuesday, November 30, 2021

FLEE (from the Taliban)

Thanks to Biden's cowardly and callous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the history in this film has already repeated itself. Twenty years ago, the rise of the Taliban forced Amin Nawabi (a pseudonym) and his family to seek asylum in the West. Despite promises our country made, thousands of reformist Afghans desperately clung to the randomly scheduled flights leaving the Kabul airport, due to their abject fear of the advancing Taliban. Nawabi’s experiences were nearly as chaotic, but he never discussed them with anyone, until he agreed to participate in Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary FLEE, which opens this Friday in New York.

Technically, the misfortunes of Nawabi’s family started under the Soviet occupation, when his father “disappeared,” never to be seen again. Things were even worse when the Taliban came to power. It was an especially dangerous time for Nawabi, who had yet to come to terms with his sexuality. (Even so, several of his family members always knew.) Ironically, the only flights out Kabul went to Russia. It was not exactly a hospitable place for refugees, but at least the corrupt cops were usually cheap enough to bribe with a few rubles.

Indeed, the difference of being stateless in Denmark versus Russia was like day and night. The Scandinavian nation is also a model of tolerance and acceptance compared to either Russia or the Taliban’s Afghanistan. Perhaps that appreciation for the West is why some of the reviews have not been as ecstatic as you would expect for a documentary on the refugee experience.

Regardless, the style of
FLEE’s animation, which strives more for realism than artistic expression (much like Another Day of Life) serves the story quite well. It allows Nawadi to be front-and-center and tell his story directly to viewers, while still maintaining his anonymity. (It is also worth noting several members of the voice-cast are also simply credited as “anonymous,” presumably for fear of reprisals.)

As a result,
FLEE definitely rings with authenticity, even though we actually never see any of the subjects on-camera. It tells a powerful story, indicting two totalitarian regimes in the process (the Taliban and the USSR that morphed into Putin’s dictatorship). Recommended as one of the best animated documentaries so far (it is much more compelling and insightful than Day of Life or the over-hyped Waltz with Bashir), FLEE opens this Friday (12/3) in New York, at the Angelika Film Center and the AMC Lincoln Square.