Sundance 2019 Film Review: “Midnight Traveler” (2019) ★★★★

A still from Midnight Traveler by Hazan Fazili, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Lutfallah Bakhtary. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

What do we know about living in uncertainty? How about bitterness? Do we know what does it mean to flee a country once we called home for another one, hoping that the new one will justify its mean? For the right person with the right intelligence, there’s no need to be in that position to understand what the Fazili family had to go through in “Midnight Traveler”, or, what so far they’ve been able to capture in this truly heartbreaking story shot in three different mobile phones.

“Midnight Traveler” follows Afghani filmmaker Hassan Fazili and his family comprising of two daughters, Nargis and Zahra, and his ever caring wife, Fatima, who found themselves on the road in hopes to find refuge to safeguard their lives from being taken by the Taliban. As soon as Hassan Fazili learns about his upcoming fate, he runs to Tajikistan to spend a year and a half to get refugee status, but instead, he was declined and forced to leave the country for good. He, of course, goes back to his home town to find himself again in great danger, realizing it`s better if they leave the country for Europe.

The film captures all the struggles that are brought by uncertainty, by citizens who did not want to welcome refugees, and one country after another that would refuse to accept newcomers. Their journey was not pleasant at all, thanks to the smugglers that would hold them in constant fear, blackmail of the same smuggles, and aggressive citizens who have no mercy or compassion to show. All that will result in an intense ride, kids that will be stressed out enough. But even all that nightmare does not take away one thing, and without this all this would mean nothing – the family’s unity.

What’s been depicted in “Midnight Traveler” happens one way or another in any part of the world. The Western world now openly rejects refugees, separates families, and keeps them apart for years. The uncertainty being captured in Hassan Fazili’s film is similar to what many go through on a daily basis. But the reality is, they will either get permanent status at some point, or will be deported in the middle of the night without any notice.

This film clearly captures not only why the refugee crisis exists, but why we should be open minded and mindful when it comes to paying attention to their stories. The point here is not to open the border to every single person, but to the ones who really deserve it, and not those who make up strange stories to get permanent status. Will the Fazili family be granted asylum is a matter of time that tends to stretch out as much as it wants. By then, let’s hope they won’t lose their patience, not get some sickness due the stress caused – one not by traveling but the outcome they’re yet to face.

“Midnight Traveler” is one of those documentaries I personally would like to write non-stop about. But if there’s something we all should take away from it, no pressure though, that the political world is monopolized by those who don’t want to share the same privilege with outsiders. Immigrants with ambition, refugees with desire to prove they’re worth it are the ones who will be seen as uninvited guests and aliens who want to take advantage of the host’s generous hospitality.

Imagine when immigrants with permanent status (regardless of their previous status) are able to settle down, just think about how the diverse country is going to become… But will the establishment allow that to happen or not is, by looking around, hearing the stories, or watching TV, you can understand they don’t want that and will never want no matter how hard the Fazili family or any other family tries to be the best of their version. Nothing is going to help until the fear of losing the job disappears, the fear of raising the future President with refugee backgrounds goes away. And only then, we can hope, we can finally let others be as happy as we are – a free and a fear-free person.

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