What the Movie Flee Reveals About Family, Home, and Hard-to-Tell Stories: NPR


To run away tells the story of a boy whose family left Afghanistan in the 1990s. As an adult, he reveals the truth of that journey.


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The film To run away opens with a question: “What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?”

Amin Nawabi’s childhood home was Kabul, Afghanistan. It was a bustling and dynamic city where he could be “a little different”.

In the opening scenes of the film, you see an animated version of young Nawabi, who isn’t afraid to wear his sister’s dress while casually running through the streets, playing music through headphones.

This image of a charming childhood changed when the mujahideen took control of Afghanistan, forcing Nawabi to flee.

Amin’s character in the animated documentary To run away.

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What the Movie Flee Reveals About Family, Home, and Hard-to-Tell Stories: NPR

Amin’s character in the animated documentary To run away.

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To run away is a mostly animated documentary about the real-life story of Nawabi, who is a pseudonym used to protect his true identity. It explores the trauma of being forced to leave home and the difficult circumstances facing refugees.

“We never really heard about the refugees, their lives, their experiences before they traveled to their home country,” he told NPR. “And what we knew was often not very positive.”

“I also wanted to tell this story to the whole world that there is more to this concept of refugee. There are human beings behind this concept and they are not very different from others.”

Nawabi objects to people being defined by their circumstances. Being a refugee is “not an identity, it’s a life circumstance”, he says.

Nawabi was smuggled out of Afghanistan as a teenager by human traffickers and eventually made his way to Denmark where he sought refuge. He was alone and was instructed to inform the authorities that his family had died in order to facilitate his obtaining asylum.

And he had another secret: he was gay and believed that disclosing this information could put his loved ones in danger.

“There was a lot of fear and uncertainty,” he said. The implications of sharing her story could be dangerous for her family, even to this day.

What the Movie Flee Reveals About Family, Home, and Hard-to-Tell Stories: NPR

Amin and her future husband at To run away.

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What the Movie Flee Reveals About Family, Home, and Hard-to-Tell Stories: NPR

Amin and her future husband at To run away.

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Nawabi tells her story in To run awayhidden by the animation.

The documentary made history as the first film to be nominated for Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature.

It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year and received the inaugural Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema in the documentary category.

But before all the acclaim and accolades, there was Nawabi’s desire to simply share her story and bring a sense of humanity to the refugee experience. But it would take decades for him to feel comfortable enough to share the circumstances that forced him to flee.

In high school, he meets To run away director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, and the pair would become close friends.

“Growing up in a very small village with about 500 people and then suddenly having someone who was kind of your age and stood out, it was like, OK, that’s interesting,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen and Nawabi’s friendship will grow in their small town in Denmark. Rasmussen would also become one of the few people Nawabi would trust.

It took over a decade, but Nawabi would become comfortable enough to have his childhood friend turn his story into a documentary.

Rasmussen said the film was “a story about the importance of sharing and listening and how the stories that people carry within them affect them every day of their lives and all that people can carry “.

Nawabi carries a little less. He says the film gave him a sense of freedom.

“I think it’s pretty limited not being able to divulge intimate information about yourself to your friends,” he said. “Now I’m able to talk about these things. And I also feel like my friends, they know me for who I am because they know stories that they didn’t know then.”

The audio for this story was produced by Michael Levitt and edited by Sarah Handel. Ayen Deng Bior adapted it for the web.


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