“Flee”: the escape of a young homosexual from Afghanistan recounted in a striking animated documentary

This is a true story. That of Amin, a young Afghan homosexual who had to flee his country for Denmark at the end of the 80s. In the animated documentary Flee (flee in French) directed by his childhood friend, the Franco-Danish Jonas Poher Rasmussen, the man reveals for the very first time his perilous run to freedom. Selected at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, the feature film delves into the refugee’s past and analyzes the dramatic consequences of exile on his childhood and his relationships.

Brown hair, three-day beard and a mole on his chin, Amin appears drawn in a lying position on a carpet with oriental motifs. Like a classic documentary, he is about to answer questions from his friend and director Jonas Poher Rasmussen. A cinema slate claps the beginning of the take and the man begins by recounting in Danish, in a slow and articulate flow, one of his childhood memories in Kabul. The testimony is true, the very voice is that of the young Afghan, taken from recordings captured by the director during interviews conducted together.

“I used the interview technique I’ve used for years, explains Rasmussen in a press release presenting the film. Respondents lie down and close their eyes, remembering how things look, smell and feel, so their memories become strong and immediate, as if unfolding in the present.” Impression that he transposes on the screen. From the first words spoken by Amin, the notes of Take me on sung by A-ha resonate. They transport the viewer into a world similar to the images of the music video created by the Norwegian new wave band.

High and Short

Back in 1985. On a beige background as if painted in watercolour, silhouettes drawn with large black lines follow one another in a jerky fashion. A little boy takes shape, wearing a pink walkman helmet over his ears. Amin describes those early years in the Afghan capital surrounded by his brothers and sisters. Without a father. He has disappeared since the withdrawal of Russian troops in 1979. The drawn sequences are interspersed with archive images: television news, but also videos from the time. Beyond the young man’s personal life, the documentary tackles the country’s turbulent history.

“I didn’t try to make a political film, noted Jonas Poher Rasmussen. I wanted to tell the story of a friend, a universal story of someone who is looking for his place. But my perspective has evolved, as his story put a human face to an experience lived by millions of people. His story resonates glaringly with the current situation of the country, under the yoke of the Taliban since 2021. Amin’s exile begins in Moscow, the only country issuing a visa – only tourist – to Afghans. There, the family is cloistered in a tiny apartment, condemned to watch telenovelas on repeat, waiting for a regularization that will never come.

You have to be discreet so as not to be spotted by the violent and corrupt Russian police. Amin describes failed escape attempts due to filthy smugglers and inhuman travel conditions. Just before his arrival in Denmark, the last smuggler, paid a fortune, gives him advice: never reveal his identity or his story, condemning him to never be completely himself. With this documentary, “Amin wanted to turn the page on his past by confronting it – because the trauma associated with his childhood creates a distance with all the people in his life”comments Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

In particular her husband met in Denmark, Kasper. “Amin confided in me at 17 that he was gay and that it had always been part of him”, remembers the filmmaker. When he was younger, Amin’s colorful room displayed a poster by Jean Claude Van Damme. He glances at her. “I fantasized about him”, he laughs in the documentary. “He also told me about the difficulty of having to hide his sexual identity in Afghanistan”, Explain Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

High and Short

Today, Amin and her husband live happily in Denmark. A balance that required years of work for the one who felt indebted to his family who let him leave Moscow alone and financed his trip. To pay homage to them, Amin has studied in the four corners of the world in a relentless way, without ever (re) resting. At the end of the documentary, he and Kasper move into a nice house. “House”a term the refugee defines at the start of the film: “a place where I feel safe, where I can stay and that I don’t have to leave.” Quite a symbol.

Gender : Animation documentary
Writer: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Duration :
Distributer :
High and Short
Exit :
August 31, 2022

Synopsis: For the first time, Amin, 36, a young homosexual Afghan refugee, agrees to tell his story. Lying with his eyes closed on a table covered with an oriental fabric, he plunges back into his past, between the luminous innocence of his childhood in Kabul in the 1980s and the trauma of his family’s flight during the civil war, before the seizure of power. by the Taliban. After years of hiding in Russia, Amin – a pseudonym – arrives alone at 16 in Denmark, where he meets the director who becomes his friend. Over the course of his story and buried pain, emotion resurfaces. Today a brilliant university student with his Danish companion Kasper, the young man confides a secret that he has been hiding for twenty years.

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“Flee”: the escape of a young homosexual from Afghanistan recounted in a striking animated documentary

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