Oscar 2022: Gay Films–Best International Film Oscar

Two films on the shortlist of the Best International Film Oscar deal with struggles of gay men to find sanctuary in a world hostile to them.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).

Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee, the only documentary in contention, centers on Amin Nawabi, an Afghan refugee on the verge of marrying his partner in Denmark, as he relates his arduous journey from war-torn Kabul to oppressive Russia to finally living out and proud in Copenhagen.

Editor Janus Billeskov Jansen describes the unique process of editing an animated feature and how it differs from live-action.

 

Writer-director Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary Flee — a contender in categories including feature animation, documentary and international feature (representing Denmark) — was edited by Janus Billeskov Jansen, a vet editor whose award-winning work in features, documentaries and shorts includes Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, which won the best international feature Oscar in 2021.

For Flee, released by Neon and Participant, the editor worked closely in the cutting room with Rasmussen to tell the intimate story of pseudonymous subject “Amin.”  The subject, a childhood friend of the director, shares as an adult the story of his extraordinary escape from Afghanistan as a child refugee.

Working with Jonas as a young director, and me as an old man with 50 years of experience, is a fantastic thing for me,” Jansen says. “I always like to talk about it as a documentary which is animated,” he says, explaining that the early part of the process involved conversations between Rasmussen and Amin and constructing the story with simple animatics.

“Their talks were filmed as if it were a documentary, and later it became animated.”  Rasmussen chose animation in order to give Amin his anonymity and because it “makes it possible to take his childhood story back to Kabul in the 1980s in a different way.”

The process involved a lot of back-and-forth, even using the interviews in different ways. Sometimes that involved taking a story by Amin to create an event in a flashback: “When they walked through the forest and the little boy had blinking shoes, that is a story Amin has told.”

During the editing, they found and incorporated archival footage. For example, the animated sequence during which young Amin and his companions are on a boat, hoping to be picked up by a ferry to Norway, but instead are taken into custody by police.

“We realized there was a film crew at the actual incident,” says Jansen, and the production was able to locate that footage to use in Flee. “Amin could point out his cousins, the little kid and other people. It was a fantastic thing that made the true story even stronger. And all of that happened during the editing.”