Sundance 2021 opened on a high note with the world premiere of Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee,” which Neon picked up the following morning in a deal worth a reported seven figures. The movie, named an official selection of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, centers around an interview Rasmussen recorded with his friend, identified as Amin Nawabi. The interviewee recounts his harrowing life story, which Rasmussen brings to life through striking, evocative animation. The result is a riveting survival story that blurs the line between documentary and narrative filmmaking styles to exhilarating effect.
The official “Flee” synopsis from Neon reads: “‘Flee’ tells the story of Amin Nawabi as he grapples with a painful secret he has kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he has built for himself and his soon to be husband. Recounted mostly through animation to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, he tells for the first time the story of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.”
IndieWire chief critic Eric Kohn awarded “Flee” a perfect “A” grade in his review out of Sundance, writing, “The film becomes a cinematic catharsis, as Amin recounts his journey in fits and starts, while the animation turns his memories into a bracing adventure that doubles as modern history.”
“Flee” made news ahead of its Sundance premiere when news broke that Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau were boarding the project as executive producers. The actors also lend their voices to the movie’s English-language dub, with Ahmed voicing Amin and Coster-Waldau voicing Rasmussen. The director told IndieWire he wanted Ahmed to voice Amin after being blown away by his Oscar-contending performance in “Sound of Metal.” Rasmussen said, “He’s just amazing in that film.”
“For a long time we thought about doing an English version because this story is for a broad audience,” Rasmussen continued. “We were trying to find a right fit for the two characters, Amin and myself. I just love Riz’s work. He’s an amazing actor. I’m thrilled they wanted to come on board. It took awhile to get them onboard but now that they are there I’m just super excited. They really like the project and it seems like it’s close to their hearts.”
Neon has not yet given “Flee” a release date. Expect the movie to show up on the fall film festival circuit and be one of the distributor’s top Oscar contenders. Watch the official trailer below.