Spanning three phones, three years and a death threat, Hassan Fazili’s powerful documentary about his family’s quest to escape persecution is a startling and heart-warming depiction of life on the refugee road.
The Sundance award-winner was shot by Fazili, his actress wife Fatima Hussaini and their two young daughters on their mobiles as they took the smugglers’ route from their home, hoping to have their case heard at the EU border. But the journey to get there is fraught with threatened kidnaps, sinister people traffickers and interminable waits.
The waiting allows the filmmaker to reveal something often missing from similar stories: the mundane. These moments come intermittently in the narrative but add a tenderness that softens the edges of the drama. Children play in the snow. Hussaini tries to learn how to ride a bike and hurtles into a tree. His daughter Nargis teaches her little sister how to write. Such familial tenderness can make it easy to forget just how dire the Fazilis’ situation is. But then a situation arises when the director must hunt for his missing daughter, and the threat of unimaginable violence returns all too quickly.
At the end there a moment when one of Fazili’s daughters vows to wipe this time from her mind for ever. You hope she can, but you won’t want to. ‘Midnight Traveler’ is an unforgettable answer to the refugee question.