Midnight Traveler, directed by Hassan Fazili, is a powerful new documentary that chronicles the refugee crisis from a firsthand perspective. A mostly gripping tale of humanity, the film does have a few sequences that drag, but for the most part, is a harrowing and important documentary.
The movie follows Fazili and his family as they flee Afghanistan after the Taliban puts a price on his head, forcing them to seek refuge in other countries. As one might expect, their journey is not easy, and the film does an excellent job of capturing the difficulties of being a refugee. Since most audiences who see this movie will not have had similar experiences themselves, this film can help bring to attention why this crisis is a legitimate crisis.
Because of the movie’s subjective lens, it is quite easy for the audience to form a connection with the subjects. Fazili is telling his own story about how he loves and cares for his family and wishes to protect them at all costs, and this is quite touching. Even though Fazili successfully creates a sense of urgency regarding his situation, he isn’t afraid to step back and show his kids being kids, allowing the film to highlight the humanity of the story.
Every time Fazili and his family face an obstacle, the audience will be left heartbroken. Of course, since the movie is so subjective, the audience likely isn’t being given all of the information in the story. However, the way in which Fazili presents his story is extremely effective and feels very honest, making one willing to overlook the film’s lack of political insight in favor of its emotional core.
The movie’s main message is about treating others with compassion, and there likely couldn’t have been a better way to express this. By telling the audience his personal story, Fazili gives the public a firsthand account of what is happening behind-the-curtain of these countries that are so often shrouded in mystery. Fazili is able to debunk the preconceived notions that many Americans hold about Middle Eastern countries and their residents, which will only help international relations.
The only real issue with the film is that it is perhaps a tad too long. Although most will get emotionally invested in the story, and that will allow the movie to be forgiven for some of its flaws, there are a few sequences that feel repetitive. Granted, this does show the cyclical nature of the refugee crisis, but these scenes are shown one too many times.
On a technical level, the film is definitely very impressive. Because of the nature of the story, Fazili had to shoot the movie guerilla-style, as a complex shoot could have resulted in the capture of him and his family. With this, the film is shot completely on mobile phones, and the cinematography is very impressive for a movie shot in this way. Knowing the context, the execution adds to this heightened sense of urgency that is so important to the film.
Although Midnight Traveler isn’t perfect, it is a solidly-made and touching snapshot of the refugee crisis. The amount of relevance this documentary has to modern world events makes it deserving of your time.
Midnight Traveler opens in theaters on September 18.