Shot entirely on three mobile phones, Midnight Traveler depicts the very personal trials and tribulations of Hassan Fazil, a filmmaker from Afghanistan, as he and his family flee the country following the Taliban’s call for his head. With little idea of how and when they might reach the safety of Europe, Hassan and his family embark on a journey spanning thousands of miles, staying inconspicuous as they go, calling on the help of friends, family and strangers in a bid to save what little they have.
After seeing Midnight Traveler, you’ll never wish such suffering upon your worst enemy. Hassan and his family never feel safe, never secure. A 3500-mile journey to Europe can sound a daunting expedition in itself, let alone when your life and loved ones are at risk. You constantly fear for the safety of the Fazils, and sympathise with each mountainous problem they face. Filming an entire feature on mobile phones can bring a number of complications, but also some fantastic benefits. The movie travels where most cameras cannot, but amongst all of the panic and travelling, Fazil consistently finds time to find beauty in the world, capturing gorgeous environments, looking deeply at the personalities of animals and most importantly for him, having his children on camera.
Making a documentary out of the journey offers the creative output that Hassan needs, detracting from the seriousness of the situation and shining a little ray of sunshine on their problems. It still, however, captures the hitches that the film itself causes, with family feuds stemming from the fact that attention is being focused more on what to shoot than what decision to make next to ensure their safety. And yet, amongst this, there are moments of beauty and joy, along with some intense eye-opening debate, encapsulated forever in this final feature-length outcome.
Due to its straight reality and “in the moment” filming, the sense of emotion and innocence are incredibly raw, with one daughter being overjoyed at the sight of “angry” wave water crashing against the shore and another bursting into desperate tears of boredom as the day of relentless travelling takes its toll on the untamed mind. For some unknowing, carefree children, driving hundreds of miles and hiking through woodland might be considered a fun excursion, but in reality, you would never wish such painful trauma upon anyone. Fazil and his wife Fatima Hossaini, also a filmmaker, tell this to the audience in a painfully authentic manner. Edited with the help of Emilie Mahdavian, the feature is completed and made even more intense by the addition of a bounty of sound effects to accompany the unnerving scenes and some breath-taking cinematography.
Midnight Traveler is a film that was no easier to make than it is to watch, but Hassan and Fatima are no prisoners to that. What they have achieved is something incredibly unique, brave and undeniably real that will hopefully be a wake-up call to the world.
Midnight Traveler is released in select cinemas on 17th January 2020.
Watch the trailer for Midnight Traveler here: