Cinema: Run, the expulsion of an Afghan refugee on the screen

Recently nominated for an Oscar and acclaimed by international critics, Run is an animated documentary film by Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen. The film tells the story of his friend Amin Nawabi, an Afghan refugee whom the director met as a teenager in Denmark. More than twenty years after arriving in Europe, Amin finally spoke to Rasmussen about his journey, his traumas, his homosexuality, and agreed to see his life on screen.

“Everyone has secrets, big or small, but everyone has them. The day is coming when the weight of the secret must be revealed so that the heart becomes lighter. It was this phrase that changed the course of the life of Jonas Poer Rasmussen, director of the Danish animated documentary Run., theatrical release end of 2021.

This secret belongs to an old friend, Amin Nawabi (not his real name). The secret behind his sudden departure from Afghanistan in 1995 and his arrival in Denmark, northern Europe, alone.

“We met as teenagers and a very natural bond developed between us. He had just arrived in my village and was placed with a foster family, where he quickly learned Danish,” recalls Jonas Rasmussen. “We soon started spending time together, but I felt like when I wanted to know a little more about his history and how he got here, he would close down and tell me it was too personal. So I respected his choice of friendship. “.

The connection between Amin and Jonas is getting stronger and stronger, and the future director is one of the first to whom the young Afghan comes out.

“JI have always been very sensitive to the issue of migrants, their origins, their life stories and to talk about it, to make them talk about it. This is an important social issue, and it is very important for people to know that their neighbors, friends or people they work with or see on the street every day are people who sometimes have a traumatic past in order for people to empathize and support migrants.”, Rasmussen says.

In 2013, Amin calls Jonas and tells him that he “wants to talk about [son] story”. Run it will take seven years to prepare, and Amin has only one request: to remain completely anonymous. “It took me a long time to open up to the idea of ​​telling my story, but one day I had to, and Jonas gave me confidence,” says Amin. The two of them started writing the script. They tell the life story of a refugee, leaving his native country, Amin’s trauma and homosexuality, his love story with Kaspar in the host country.

Free the voice of refugees and give voice to the cause

This is followed by long nights of discussions and exchanges, as well as writing texts, and two friends are passionate about this project. “I don’t know how many hours we spent on this film in total, but I think that no one would have turned down. We were driven by a great desire to give Amin as much freedom as possible to tell his story,” emphasizes Rasmussen.

The idea for an animated documentary was born quickly. “After discussing with Jonas, I wanted the film to be accessible to as many people as possible and the format to be original. Animation gives a different perspective, a different way of looking at things, and I think the emotions, the lyrics… the steps in the movie are more effective through animated images than through the game. The animation also allows me to remain completely anonymous,” says Amin.

The documentary tells all the stages of Amin’s life. From his departure from Kabul in 1995 after the mujahideen took over the city to his arrival after weeks of travel and fear of being influenced by smugglers — “people without humanity who treat people like cattle,” he says. “All these stages are too many emotions, traumas, deep wounds for one person, even more so for a teenager,” he says, before adding that “the very fact of making this documentary cartoon (him) allowed him to find a certain inner peace, because (he) also testifies to the freedom of speech of migrants and people who have experienced the same as (he).”

For Rasmussen, “Amin discovers and lives this experience of cinematic creativity as a kind of therapy, as a means of releasing his “ghosts,” if I can define it that way. But first of all, he wants us to talk about the cause of refugees, because in the modern world, the stigmatization of foreigners is at its most shocking level, even in Denmark, which until then was considered a hospitable country for migrants. this documentary.

Now a university professor in Denmark after a PhD from Princeton University in the United States, Amin also wants to be a voice for LGBT people and break taboos in doing so. Because “the topic is still very sensitive in society,” the director clarifies. “Amin promotes discussion and encourages people to show understanding and respect for men, regardless of their background, beliefs and sexual orientation. He is anonymous, but despite this, many people recognize themselves in him.

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