By Nathan H. Box, MNPL
Recommendation: 4/5 SHOWTIME
Plot: “FLEE tells the extraordinary true story of a man, Amin, on the verge of marriage which compels him to reveal his hidden past for the first time.”
Review: With your eyes closed, picture home. Does your mind wander to where you currently live, the things you own, and the people you share this space with and love? Does your mind think of the city or town where your house lives? Does your mind drift back to your childhood home and everything that means to you?
Flee asks us to step in the shoes of Afghan immigrants/asylum seekers as they escape the civil war in Afghanistan, which pitted Mujahideen groups and the Taliban against each other. In the United States, we have spilled countless hours of television and rivers of ink discussing immigrants and asylum seekers at our southern border. Far less time and column inches have been filled with stories humanizing the experience of those individuals. Using a mix of animation and live-action news reels, this documentary does this and more. It does it beautifully, powerfully, and convincingly. If you are open to the experience, this is one of those movies that has the power to change you forever.
Our story begins with a man lying on a rug being filmed and asked questions about his past. Amin is on the verge of marriage to his partner, but before he can take this monumental step forward, he must unpack the trauma experienced in his past life. From an early age, Amin knew he was gay, but living authentically had to take a back seat to survival. As authorities capture his father, never to be seen again, this becomes a story of escape.
With his mother, older brother, and sisters, they escape to Russia, hoping to move onto Sweden, where his oldest brother lives. From here, this film exposes the underlying fear, distrust, pain, torment, and anguish that many immigrants and those seeking asylum face. As visas expire and the family is slowly separated, this film becomes a cascade of heartbreak. It is here we realize the challenges facing Amin. We begin to understand the difficulty of coming out and the trust required to let someone know your true self.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. I will not ruin this light. Instead, I will say this. As you watch this film, think of the heightened sense of awareness required if you were in Amin’s shoes. Think how exhausting it must be constantly looking over your shoulder. Think of the isolation and how unnerving it must be to find no face you can truly trust. The mission of this film is simple. It exists as an artistic expression meant to lure empathy from the shadows. I have seen countless movies and documentaries focused on the immigrant, refugee, and asylum experience. This little animated documentary might just be my favorite. It sure lured empathy out of me.
Be Good to Each other,
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