Neon has made the first acquisition out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, taking North American rights to Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee for an undisclosed seven-figure sum after an overnight bidding war.
The film, executive produced by Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, was an official selection for Cannes 2020 and made its debut on opening night of Sundance in the World Documentary Competition. Rasmussen directed and co-wrote the movie with Amin Nawabi.
Playing in the world premiere section, Flee follows Nawabi, who arrives as an unaccompanied minor in Denmark from Afghanistan. Today, he is a successful academic and is getting married to his longtime boyfriend. A secret he has been hiding for 20 years threatens to ruin the life he has built. Recounted mostly through animation to Rasmussen — his close friend and high school classmate, he tells for the first time the story of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
Flee is produced by Final Cut for Real, in co-production with animation studio Sun Creature (Denmark), Vivement Lundi! (France), MostFilm (Sweden), Mer Film (Norway), ARTE (France) and Vpro (Netherlands). The film is supported and produced in association with Vice Studios and Ryot Films and Ahmed’s Left Handed Films.
“So excited to partner up with Neon for the North America distribution, being such an innovative and bold company we feel they can secure a broad distribution across the US,” Monica Hellström & Signe Byrge Sørensen of Final Cut for Real said in a statement.
“Very excited to work with groundbreaking distributors Neon on getting Flee out,” Rasmussen said. “Their roster of titles include a vast amount of my favorite films from the last couple of years and I’m extremely proud to now include my own work on that list.”
Said Ahmed: “I was floored by the emotional impact of Flee. This is a unique project that pushes forward our ideas of what documentary, animation, and refugee-centred narratives can be. I’m proud to help bring this project to life for English speaking audiences,”
Coster-Waldau added: “When I watched Flee, I was blown away by the power of a story told in a simple way. Flee is a story of extreme perseverance and hope where all hope seems lost. By using animation director Jonas Poher Rasmussen captures the intensity of one refugee’s unbelievable journey from the streets of Kabul to the Danish suburbia. Because Amin is able to tell his story hidden behind his animated avatar it feels so much more revealing and honest than had it been a standard filmed interview. I am incredibly proud to be a part of Flee and will encourage everyone to experience this gem of a film.”
The pic is edited by Janus Billeskov Jansen, whose notable works include the Oscar-nominated The Hunt (2013), Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing (2012), Yance Ford’s Oscar-nominated Strong Island (2017) and Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round (2020), the Danish entry for the 93rd Academy Awards.
Flee is produced by Hellström (The Distant Barking of Dogs) and two-time Oscar nominee Sørensen (The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence), for Final Cut for Real (Denmark). Art Director Jess Nicholls, Animation Director Kenneth Ladekjær and Animation producer Charlotte De La Gournerie for Sun Creature Studio. Co-Produced by Jean-François Le Corre, Mathieu Courtois for Vivement Lundi !, France, Charlotte Most for MostFilm, Sweden & Maria Ekerhovd for Mer Film, Norway. Natalie Farrey, Jannat Gargi, and Danny Gabai executive produce for VICE Studios. Philippa Kowarsky is Executive Producer for Cinephil. While Hayley Pappas and Matt Ippolito executive produce for RYOT Films.
Jeff Deutchman negotiated the deal for Neon with 30WEST and Philippa Kowarsky of Cinephil on behalf of the filmmakers. International sales are being handled by Cinephil.
Danish-French film director Rasmussen debuted in 2006 with the TV documentary Something About Halfdan, followed by a series of radio documentaries from around the world. His feature film debut Searching for Bill, a mix of documentary and fiction, won him the Nordic Dox award at CPH:DOX, and the international competition prize at DocAviv. In November 2015 he premiered his latest documentary What He Did, which won the Fipresci Prize at the 2016 Thessaloniki Film Festival.