Gimmick Never Tires;
Produces Real Emotion;
True And Affecting.
This is only my second year attending the Cinetopia Film Festival, and just like last year, I continue to be wowed by what I’ve seen. When I’m forced to choose titles at random based on time frames that work for me (especially as this festival is spread throughout multiple cities over the course of a week), it’s hard to tell going into a film whether or not it will strike a chord. Midnight Traveler does that and then some, delivering a very documentary that is raw in every sense of the word, but an absolute knockout nonetheless.
Hassan Fazili is an Afghan filmmaker and proponent of reform. In 2015, the Taliban put a price on his head for forming a network with others of like-minded beliefs. Fazili, along with his wife Fatima and daughters Zhara and Nargis, fled to Tajikstan. But when they were faced with deportation, they made the difficult choice to seek asylum in the European Union and get there no matter the cost. Shot over three years on nothing but mobile phone cameras, their journey from wildness to refugee camp and back again, is harrowing, heartbreaking and haunting. The love and strength that bonds them together is heartwarming amidst a sea of cruelty and indifference, and this film does what many refugee stories can’t accomplish: it puts real, human faces on a tragedy we’re all aware of (on some level), and studies those faces through good times and bad and over considerable time. It is a remarkable watch on a lot of levels.
Fazili never shies away from showing his own family’s most tragic moments, but it never feels cheap or for the sake of the art of cinema. It is to raise awareness and discourse, and if seen by enough people, should accomplish exactly that. There is a terrifying air of uncertainty that runs through the entire film. Their journey is never short of danger, and you get the feeling that a nice, happy ending is in no way guaranteed for this family. It channels that uncertainty into very real emotion very well, and the fact that it is all created via cell phone while on the run makes it that much more extraordinary. The courage it took not only to make this journey but also document it in the face of such peril is something we should all value and appreciate. If you have the opportunity, see this film! I have a feeling that it will remain very high up on my list of documentaries by the end of the year.
Have you seen Midnight Traveler? What did you think? Drop a comment below and head over to our Facebook Community for much more discussion!