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‘Flee’ Director Wanted Riz Ahmed’s Voice for Sundance Doc After Seeing ‘Sound of Metal’

Jonas Poher Rasmussen joins the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Adobe, to discuss "Flee."

"Flee"

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival gets off to a strong start with “Flee,” an animated documentary from filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen. The film animates a conversation between Rasmussen and his anonymous friend, who goes by the name Amin in the movie. As Amin shares his life story, which includes struggling with his gay identity while living in Afghanistan and migrating to Denmark, Rasmussen brings his friend’s history to life throuRasmussen said he’d been trying to get his friend to open up about his past long before the movie started production.

“I knew he had a backstory that he didn’t even want to talk about,” Rasmussen said. “I have a background in radio and I asked him numerous times if he would tell his story as a radio interview and he was never ready to share his story.”

It was only when Rasmussen pitched his friend on the idea of doing an animated movie that the friend agreed because the animation process would allow him to remain anonymous. The anonymity wasn’t the only advantage of pivoting to animation.

“Because ‘Flee’ for most of the movie takes place in the past, animation was the only way to make the past come alive again. How else do you show Afghanistan in the 1980s or Moscow in the 1990s? It also enabled us to be more expressive about it. A lot of this is also about his trauma, as he’s recollecting everything. So through animation we could be more expressive and emotional about it.”

“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 and to lend their voices for the movie’s English-language dub. Ahmed will voice Amin and Coster-Waldau will voice 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,” the director said. “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.”

Presenting sponsor Adobe gives everyone — from emerging artists to global brands — everything they need to design and deliver exceptional digital experiences. Adobe is committed to supporting, elevating and amplifying underrepresented creators, so the world can see, learn and benefit from diverse perspectives. Learn more at Adobe.com Diverse Voices.

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