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AIFF Review: Midnight Traveler

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Afghan director, Hassan Fazili, has documented his family’s arduous journey to a safe country, over 3000 miles in as many years. Fazili and his wife, Fatima Hussaini, have filmed life in Afghanistan before (Peace in Afghanista, Mr. Fazili’s Wife), pushing the boundary of restrictions they’ve been under during years of Taliban control until they have to flee for their lives. Midnight Traveler reveals much of the cause and reason behind the plight of refugees fighting to escape the war torn Middle East.

The family’s hurdles change with each country, and the two daughters, Nargis and Zahra, grow older during the film’s three year journal, which was entirely shot using cell phones. It captures violent prejudices, one daughter celebrating their most recent settlement into a warm camp with beds by dancing candidly to Michael Jackson, Fatima’s painful attempts to learn how to ride a bike, plus simple accounts one could take for granted, like a planet at dusk or snowflakes appearing out of the dark, night sky.

At one point, Nargis tells her mother during an “open-minded” family conversation that she won’t cover her head when she grows up. When Fatima consents, Nargis leaps into her mother’s arms in joy. These added touches by the film’s production team help emphasize the humanness, rather than divisiveness, of the movie’s globally sensitive subject matter.

From Tajikistan to Afghanistan to Serbia, Bulgaria and Hungary, the journey takes them over mountains, across borders in the dark and into the hands of devious smugglers demanding more money, or they’ll take the little girls.

“Wherever we can go, that’s where we’re going,” says Fatima, pointing at all the countries on a map for Nargis.

The documentary is well made; never forgetting Fazili is a filmmaker and knows the effect of drama. At times, it seems as though it is used to spotlight points to a somewhat stagey feel, but that’s what the Fazili’s, both experienced filmmakers, aim to do—effect change through their art. The threats, the tears and the fatigue are undeniably real. One can’t flee a home and country without taking the reasons behind the upheaval with them—Fazili has chosen to make it an artfully accomplished message. 


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