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Best films of 2022 in the UK: No 4 – Flee | Documentary films

It’s a genuine thrill to encounter a film as exciting and immediate as Flee. The true story at its centre is a harrowing and suspenseful refugee narrative of loss and resilience, and director Jonas Poher Rasmussen could have brought it to the screen in many ways, almost all of them conventionally easier than the one he finally chose. Rasmussen’s friend, known in the film as Amin, is an Afghan refugee who agrees to share how he made his way from war-torn Kabul in the 80s to now, living a settled, open life in Denmark as a gay man, one he’d never thought was possible.

In animating the interviews with Amin and the various events being recalled, Rasmussen finds an unusually immersive way to pull us in even closer, one that’s both emotionally involving and artfully realised. Amin’s childhood, as with many others like him, was interrupted in the late 80s as conflict forced him and his family to escape their home, finding their way to Moscow.

Rasmussen also includes montages of archival footage, deftly informing us of the basics of the political chaos that surrounds Amin’s life in both Afghanistan and Russia. It’s impossible to recall a refugee story told with such devastating efficacy as well as such specific nuance, showing us the horrors Amin experienced but also, importantly, how they stuck to him in the years after and still do. There’s a natural rhythm and sense of discovery to these recollections, as if Amin is working so much of it out for himself still as he talks. It’s a nakedly personal film and we feel honoured being allowed in the room with them.

Flee is a remarkably humanising and complex film, expanding and expounding the kind of story that’s too easily simplified. Rasmussen has created a loving and unsparing tribute to his friend.

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Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash