Sundance Review: 'Midnight Traveler' Is an Immersive (and Impressive) Immigration Doc Directed by Hassan Fazili
Published Jan 28, 2019Films shot on cellphones are not new, but Hassan Fazili's new feature shows just how far this tool can be utilized. While other directors have named budget constraints or aesthetic choices as their defence of the medium, Midnight Traveler takes things to the next level. Using nothing more than footage from three cellphones, the film is a jaw-dropping, heart-pounding documentary about one family's immigration crisis that brings new depth to the term "immersive."
A native of Afghanistan, Hassan finds that the Taliban has put a bounty on his head. Fearing for his life — along with the lives of his wife and two young daughters — he embarks on a long, harrowing journey through the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
While these stories are often retold by Western journalists, Hassan and his cellphones have allowed for an impressive, unfiltered firsthand account. Every harrowing detail is documented, from suspense-filled forest treks, to tearful frustrations in rundown migrant camps, to confrontations by bigoted locals in a number of Eastern European countries. Along the way, we meet the Fazili family and uncover just how charming they really are. Because of the cellphone footage, the film's panic and feeling of intimacy are both amplified.
Entirely tied to our modern times, Midnight Traveler feels particularly important because of just how relatable the family is. While most documentaries, no matter how well-intentioned, seemed to exist as a form of confirmation bias for its viewers, Midnight Traveler feels like it could actually change minds. After all, it feels like even the most bigoted, closed-minded, anti-immigrant viewer would have trouble resisting the Fazili's charms.
(Old Chilly Pictures)