Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Run Review: Animated Document – Moving Refugee Portrait

Amin Nawabi sits in front of the camera and closes his eyes in the Danish hybrid documentary Run, an intimate portrait of long-term displacement injuries and one of the most humane films of the year. He inhales deeply, and distant memories begin to ooze out, focusing on long-standing feelings and details.

At first he is a young boy dancing carefree through the streets of Kabul in the 1980s as Western pop music plays from pink headphones in his ears. He later sits in delight in the backyard of his family home, listening to stories about his father, who was kidnapped by the communist government and will never see him again. Sometime after that, he recalls being shocked by fleeing war-torn Afghanistan in 1989 with his mother and siblings – only to be stuck in limbo with expired immigration documents in desolate post-Soviet Russia as he watched dubbed Mexican telenovelas to mark the time before the ascent begins. more and more painful attempts for a better future.

Decades of long-standing anxiety, fear and hidden pain are evident as Nawabi, now a scientist living in Copenhagen with his boyfriend, recounts his experience as an Afghan refugee child to director and longtime friend Jonas Poher Rasmussen in Run (a film that won ) The Sundance Grand Jury Documentary Award, received earlier this year, is also Denmark’s official Oscar.)

Rasmussen first met Nawabi (named under a pseudonym and also as a co-author of the film) while a high school student. The film includes his own vivid flashback of first seeing a guarded young Amin, and then a quiet immigrant child in a foreign country, struggling not to be noticed. Now, after decades of close friendship, Rasmussen is trying to record the story of his friend’s early life. In the end, he witnessed the painful truths that Nawabi kept deep inside from everyone around him, and the film became not only a testimony, but also a catalyst for catharsis.

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Interspersed with archival news footage and featured primarily in expressive 2D color animation sequences, Run bases Nawabi’s memories in the context of geopolitical confrontations that have left him, his family and thousands of other refugees displaced and desperate enough to risk danger, separation. and worse for a better life.

Animating several years of interview sessions and Nawabi’s descriptive flashbacks, The Flight uses the freedom of its format to paint a fuller picture of its subject, its life experience and its emotions than would otherwise be possible. This choice spices up moments of humor and tenderness, such as when Nawabi confesses as a child that he is in love with Jean-Claude Van Damme (who winks at him in an animated flashback from a poster on his bedroom wall) and returns to a sweet bond with him. … an older boy who has had a lonely and dangerous episode in his life.

But it’s his vivid memories of a trafficked refugee – first smuggled to Russia and then to Denmark, where he eventually arrived alone and was placed in a foster home as a teenager – that fuels some of the most relevant and indelible imagery. , including a shocking display of brutality on a march through snow-covered forests and horrifying memories of a boat filled with hope for refugees and a cruise ship passing by.

Run is a piece that expresses deep empathy for the refugees’ experiences, bringing the audience closer to the fears of violence and repression that drove the Nawabi family out of their home, as well as the abuse and apathy they faced when they left. More sharply, it shows how deeply invisible scars can remain on those who have been severely deprived of their families, homes and promises of security, even long after the end of the journey.

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As he and his family fled from country to country, placing their lives in the hands of traffickers, Nawabi learned to bow his head, fear authority and stay alert. Even in lively form, Nawabi’s voice is filled with grief about what was lost along the way. This is evident as he reads from his teenage diary, struggling to recognize his own handwriting in his own language, as he revisits a detailed account he wrote about the family he lost in Afghanistan, although he does not reveal the true breadth of his emotions until until then.

For Nawabi, the ingrained instinct of suppressing his identity in the name of self-preservation went even deeper: in his youth, fearing that he would be rejected by the only family he had, if they knew he was gay, he kept the truth hidden – a memory that he passes on from a huge dramatic effect in one of the film’s most amazing scenes.

But this lifelong worry about the knife edge can be exhausting and destructive. Elsewhere, Rasmussen’s camera captures silent rifts in an otherwise loving family life that Nawabi shares with his partner Kasper, who he admits to the camera does not yet know all the dark and painful secrets of his past. The more Casper pushes them to take root, the more Nawabi builds walls.

This reluctance, he begins to realize, is due to his feelings of guilt for the sacrifices made by his family for his survival. In the film’s tender ending, Rasmussen lifts the veil that suggests that his friend, by telling the truth about the past, has finally begun to work his own way forward.

‘Run away’

Rating: PG-13, for thematic content, disturbing images, and profanity.

Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Plays: AMC Sunset 5, West Hollywood; Landmark, West Los Angeles

Nation World News Desk
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