Best Animated Film

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen

At a time when most American animated features are upbeat fantasies, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee reminds viewers that the medium can be a powerful teaching tool. Its subject, one “Amin Nawabi,” a gay man who’s about to marry his fiancé, recounts how he fled the repressive regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan as a boy, eventually finding freedom and safety in Denmark. Rasmussen had a compelling reason for using animation: The medium allowsed Amin to tell his story while concealing his identity. He broke immigration laws when he came to Denmark and apparently could still face legal consequences.

Amin’s tale is a harrowing one. He initially flew to Russia with his mother and sisters, which forced them to deal with traffickers and corrupt police officers. Although audiences have seen and read similar accounts, the details give Amin’s narration a gripping immediacy:. A small child’s light-up sneakers could alert border guards, so an older boy had to carry him. Adult children half-carried, half-dragged their aging mother who could not manage the pace the traffickers set. Amin’s most moving recollections focus on how, as a child, he had to endure poverty, shame and grinding boredom while he waited in the shadows to reach a better life in Scandinavia.

Since its premiere in 2020, Flee has garnered numerous awards from film festivals and critics’ organizations, for both animated film and documentary. Although the idea of an animated documentary may seem new to some, the medium has been used to present difficult information to general audiences since Fleischer Studios released the multimedia The Einstein Theory of Relativity in 1923. Using animation to relate the grim truth about an important social issue makes Flee simultaneously groundbreaking and traditional — and a worthy recipient of the LAFCA Award for Best Animated Film.

— Charles Solomon