Sundance 2019: Midnight Traveler

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.

Midnight Traveler is an important documentary and captures the overseas immigration battle that Muslim immigrants are facing.

Midnight Traveler tells the story of Hassan Fazili, Fatima Hussaini, and their family.  This is not a fun story by any means nor is it easy.  If not for filmmakers willing to help them, it’s quite possible that their story might not be out there.  In any event, this is a documentary that takes the Muslim immigration story beyond just a soundbite.  This is feature-length footage that painstakingly captures the troubles that this family goes through.  It’s not just a refugee film in the traditional sense.  This family of four isn’t even safe until they reach Europe and even then, there’s the chance that they might have to return to Afghanistan.

Say what you will about immigrants seeking asylum in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere but this documentary captures their pain.  Given their situation, this is a film that could only be shot using smartphone technology.  They shot the film using three different phones.  But even with the footage being shot on their phone, the sound design only further enhances their story.  If this is the only way to be able to tell their story, so be it!

Midnight Traveler was shot over the course of two years.  That’s two years of constant agony in not knowing what would happen next.  There is a major fear here that something could possibly go wrong.  What is it that they say?  Hope for the best, expect the worst!  And yet, this is a family that is currently sitting in purgatory so to speak.

Here’s what we know going into the film’s world premiere at Sundance: Hassan and his family are still living in Germany.  They have yet to have a ruling made on their asylum claim.  In a perfect world, this family would be able to attend the world premiere.  Unfortunately, immigration reasons won’t allow the family to travel beyond the border of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The fact that the filmmakers built their own mobile editing studio in Germany shows the type of care that went into telling this story.  It’s a powerful story that needs to be told.  One of the film’s producers, Su Kim, just happened to have produced last year’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening.  Give her and Emelie Mahdavian credit for helping get this story out there!

Midnight Traveler is the type of film that reminds us that some families unfortunately don’t have it anywhere near as easy as the rest of us.

DIRECTOR:  Hassan Fazili
SCREENWRITER:  Emelie Mahdavian
FEATURING:  Nargis Fazili, Zahra Fazili, Fatima Hussaini, Hassan Fazili

Midnight Traveler holds its world premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.