Rasmussen gets all this from Amin in what functions as a therapy session. He’s never told anyone in Denmark his life story before, to the point that his boyfriend thought Amin was a sibling-less orphan. Lying down on a rug, center-framed, Amin closes his eyes and dredges up details from his childhood in Kabul. There’s been no shortage of documentaries about escape from unsafe conditions in the Middle East, and Flee separates itself from those by incorporating a time when things were stable. Due to Flee’s format, Amin’s recollections of frolicking through the streets can be shown as if they’re presently happening. One of the first things that Rasmussen asks Amin is what home means to him, and it’s defined as a safe place. Flee shows exactly that in its opening scenes, a place where a Kabul boy can dance around in a dress listening to A-Ha while a local shopkeeper playfully sprays him with a hose, where the Jean Claude Van Damme posters in his room are about appreciating more than action cinema. Getting back to that safety is the central dilemma of Amin’s life, and the fact that he feels it necessary to hide his identity means he’s still not yet there.
At only 90 minutes, Flee is constrained by how big of a story it’s taken on. The dramatic scope of Amin’s life as a political pawn means that its straightforward details justify the film, but he also proves to be a perceptive storyteller whose takeaways warrant more time than they’re allowed. All that, plus his own internal story of coming to terms with his sexuality, means the editing of this story down to what’s essential must have been brutal. Rasmussen does his best to service it all. He covers for the fact that he has to take shortcuts by making what’s included as memorable as possible. A film about an Afghani refugee wouldn’t have been one’s first guess for a beautiful coming out scene. Nonetheless, Flee is a film that leaves the viewer wanting more from Amin, despite the fact that he’s already given Rasmussen so much. The next documentary like this one, and there will be plenty more, might not be as perceptive or imaginative, but it could be more thorough. B+