Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s 'Flee' made international Oscar history on 8 February when it became the first film ever to be nominated simultaneously for Best Documentary, Best Animated Feature and Best International Feature Film.
'Flee' – an animated documentary about Amin, who is forced to leave his home in Afghanistan and set off on a perilous journey to safety in Scandinavia in the 1990s – will represent Denmark, alongside Martin Strange-Hansen's short film 'On My Mind', at the Academy Awards ceremony on 27 March.
"The epitome of an Oscar-worthy film, 'Flee' merges artistry and craftsmanship with wide audience appeal across borders, as its three nominations clearly underscore," says Jacob Neiiendam, head of the Danish Film Institute’s International Department.
"The film succeeds in treating the highly topical theme of fleeing and finding home, while putting a human face on the people behind the headlines."
Festival consultant Lizette Gram Mygind, who has been closely following the film’s Oscar journey, adds:
"'Flee' tells a universal story of being without a home. The film has impressed the international media by its combination of documentary and animation opening up a whole new range of possibilities for describing Amin’s journey and making a serious subject deeply personal and moving."
The big leagues
'Flee' has already won numerous awards at international festivals, but the Oscar nominations will obviously give it an even bigger global platform. This testifies to the film’s impact and to the fact that Danish cinema is in peak form right now, Neiiendam and Mygind say.
"The nominations are incredibly important to Danish film because they lift everyone in the industry and open the door to international partnerships. Plus, the honour is a sign that the Danish talent pool is overperforming on all parameters. Considering the small size of the country, it seems almost unreal that Danish films have proven their mettle for years in the big leagues of movies ahead of the major film nations. Where 'Flee' is concerned, this will no doubt lengthen the film’s life and increase its spread in the long run," Neiiendam says.
The nominations could prove crucial to Poher Rasmussen and the production companies behind the film, Final Cut for Real and Sun Creature Studio, when they launch their next projects.
"The Oscar nominations are a huge seal of approval for the whole team and open up opportunities for further partnerships that could be key to funding new projects. Final Cut for Real is cementing its position in the international leagues with five Oscar nominations in just eight years. And for Sun Creature Studio, it opens the door to even more big animation projects," Mygind says.
'Flee''s nomination in the animation category, the first ever for Danish film, is a huge victory for Danish animation.
"This shines a spotlight on the skilled domestic animation industry. Danish animation companies have previously been involved in Oscar-nominated films as co-producers, including for 'Song of the Sea', and the Danish animation industry is always looking for international partnerships. This nomination could point to even more opportunities," Neiiendam says.
Old rules breaking up
'Flee''s strong showing across categories also affirms that international films are increasingly making a mark at the Oscars – in part because of the Academy’s high intake of filmmakers from countries other than the US, Neiiendam and Mygind say.
"After 'Parasite' won for Best Picture in 2020, the international field has become extremely attractive, since people now know that it’s possible to go all the way. Neon, which also distributed 'Parasite' in the US, made it clear that they would be betting on 'Flee' as an Oscar candidate when they acquired the rights after it premiered at Sundance last year. That was a huge boost for the film."
"Moreover, the fact that this is only the third documentary in Oscar history to be in the running for both Best Documentary and Best International Feature shows that the old rules are breaking up."