Before he made “Flee,” documentary filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen had never worked in animation. But when he came up with the idea of making a film about his friend Amin Nawabi, he realized that animation would be the perfect medium to tell Amin’s immigration story.

“Because Amin’s story takes place in the past, it was really a way to revitalize his childhood home in Afghanistan, Afghanistan in the ’80s and Moscow in the ’90s,” Rasmussen told Variety’s Chief Film Critic Peter Debruge during a Variety Streaming Room interview. “But then when I had the idea and I talked to Amin about it, he was really intrigued by the fact that he could be anonymous behind animation. Because what you see in the film and what you hear is the first time he shares the story. And it’s really not easy to talk about these things. So, the fact that he could be anonymous behind animation was what enabled him to say ‘Okay, this is a way to tell my story that I can actually see myself in.’ And that’s really what enabled him to open up.”

Rasmussen’s “Flee” tells the story of Amin growing up and how his family fled Afghanistan as refugees in the ’80s. The director spoke to Debruge about his friendship with the subject of his film, and why it was important to respect his wish for anonymity and privacy.

“This story is really difficult for him to talk about,” Rasmussen said. “So all of a sudden to be in the public eye and meeting people in the supermarket who saw the film and who recognized him and who wanted to talk about how it was on that sinking boat. This is not something he can small talk about. So what you see in the film is the very first time he talks about it. So he really said, ‘I want to keep control over when I want to talk about this. When I’m ready to share this with people I meet.’ Also, he has a professional life. So, to be able to meet people on a clean slate and they wouldn’t know about his innermost secrets and traumas, that was really important to him. Because one of the first things he told me was that he didn’t want to be victimized. He didn’t want to feel like a victim or pitied. He wanted to be able to be who he is because being a refugee is not who he is. It’s not an identity. He’s so much more. He’s an academic, he’s gay, he’s a house owner, he’s a cat owner. He’s a lot of things and to be narrowed down to being just one thing he really didn’t want to be that.”

“Flee” is currently playing in select theaters.