Continuing this week with some Oscar reflections, today I wanted to shed light on the documetary Flee, which is up for Animated Feature Film, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film.
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, the official entry from Denmark is a documentary that mixes animated and live action sequences as it tells the story of Amin, an unaccompanied minor who lives in Denmark but immigated from Afghanistan. At 36 years the film tells his story by way of a conversation between Amin and a close friend where we find him confiding in him by telling his story out loud for the first time. Embedded into this are secrets from his past which bear real weight on his present, making it important for him to finally find a way to articulate this past in a way that allows him to deal with the present and find a way forward. It very much uses the physical journey to shed light on the internal one, highlighting issues of identity, acceptance and belonging. It is a simple story but it is also a powerful and important one that really celebrates Amin’s courageous willingness to tell his story and to finally make it real.
The Oscar Story:
The big story here is of course the film’s presence in all three of these categories. While this is historic in and of itself, the very notion that it could possibly walk away with awards in all three categories would be truly historical should it happen.
How likely is it that this would happen? I would say highly unlikely. But the sheer idea does make this one exciting to watch. The greater interest is pondering which category it stands the best shot at winning. This is where things get difficult.
Dethroning Encanto from the top spot in animated feature would be a challenge (and despite advocates of Mitchells and the Machines believing it has a shot, I think this is more a dream than reality. But hey, the Osars always need to throw in a couple surprises). Luca and Raya and the Last Dragon fill out the other two spots in this category (yes, although Luca is Pixar technically this means Disney is dominating here with three nominations), and of those two Raya has been cited by pundits to hold the number two spot.
With that said, there are some quietly picking Flee in that number 2 spot, and while Encanto appears to be so far ahead here and represents the familiar and popular pick (I personally have no qualms here as i think it is the best animated film to release in 2021), there is a chance Flee could pull the upset simply based on its clear representation in the other two categories. If nothing else this proves it has its fans and that people have indeed seen it, and that bodes well in its favor.
The fiercest competition here is Summer of Soul, generally accepted as the clear front runner and most likely winner. And deservedly so, it’s a phenomenal film and the Acadamy does like music films in this category. What makes this category intriguing is that when you look at the other nominations there is no clear number 2. All three of the other noms- Ascension, Attica, Writing with Fire, occupy similar space in that they are generally respected but not necessarily widely seen nor universally embraced as potential competitors in the race. This leaves Flee wide open to make a legitimate run at dethroning Summer of Soul
International Feature Film
Similar to documentary, international film sports a clear front runner (Japan’s Drive My Car) with three other nominations vying for that second spot- Italy’s The Hand of God, Bhutan’s Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, and Norway’s The Worst Person in the World). One central dfference here is The Worst Person in the World did manage to snag a nomination in the original screenplay category, which might seem inconsequential but does carry some weight in regards to its possible contending here. It also has passionate support (although i personally find it overrated). When you consider that Drive My Car also occupies a slot in the Best Picture line up, one that I don’t think it has a chance of winning, its hard to think that the well regarded film wouldn’t be given international film in its place.
So what to do with this film then? Is it possible that these historic noms could actually walk away with nothing? That seems equally hard to fathom. If I had to make a best guess I am probably leaning towards its best chance being Documentary. However, my own “go for broke” prediction in the animated feature category (just to offset the Mitchells and the Machines enthusiasts) is willing to at least suggest the scenario of Flee quietly sneaking in and upseting the Disney juggernaut. There is an irony here though given that I think the film is most deserving as an international feature and documentary and least deserving as an animated feature. The animation is fine but it’s nothing exceptional, and even arguably a bit blandly drawn. It works really well as a compliment to the live action bits, and it doesn’t need to be flashy given the strength of the story and its focus on the material and the structure, but that just accentuates its strengh as an inventive documentary and strong international feature.