USA, QATAR, CANADA, UK / 2019 / Persian / Color / DCP / 87 min
Director: Hassan Fazili
Script, Editing: Emelie Mahdavian
Photography: Fatima Hussaini, Hassan Fazili, Nargis Fazili, Zahra Fazili
Music: Gretchen Jude
Producers: Emelie Mahdavian, Su Kim
World Sales: Doc&Film International
Under sentence of death because of their film about a Taliban leader in Afghanistan, a filmmaking couple records their three-year escape with their children, a succession of hazardous border crossings that finally leads them to Europe. The entire family films with their smartphones, capturing an up-close and personal look at their fears during flight, and their intimacy with one another. The viewer is given an unobstructed window onto how one family’s daily life carries on, even with no one to turn to following expulsion from an unstable society still under shadow of conflict.
[Director’s Statement] In our circumstances, it wasn’t possible to work with professional cameras. All we had was three mobile phones. However, the phones were easy for my whole family to use, they were small, and could be ready to shoot quickly.
My family was taken from our land and thrown in every direction by outside forces. As a father, I am tired from the strain of protecting my family from threats we encountered on this route. But as a filmmaker, these wanderings and troubles are appealing to me, so we all became the subject of this film.
My wife is also a filmmaker and my older daughter has acted small parts in films. They participate in the filmmaking, conveying their personal experiences in ways that I could not have captured myself.
Finally, this film was possible because of the hard work and experience of the other people on the team. Emelie (editor and co-producer of the film) was with us from the beginning, and I felt that she was very close to us, although we worked together in person for the first time in Serbia. When I saw the edits, I always felt that she made the best choices of what to include.
Emelie also introduced us to Su. We were happy Su agreed to produce the film with Emelie. Su brings extensive professional experience to the project, ensuring that we made the best decisions.
The sound and music were especially important in this film, because we were only able to record with our mobile phones. When I see the film in its final format, I feel as if those who have done the work were alongside us on the journey.
Hassan Fazili has developed theater plays, documentaries, short films, and several popular television serials in Afghanistan. In 2011, he was selected by the British Council to attend Sheffield/DocFest for documentary filmmaking networking and training. His films Mr. Fazili’s Wife and Life Again! both push the envelope on issues of women’s, children’s and disabled people’s rights in Afghanistan, and have won awards at numerous international festivals. He also worked as a location manager for Feo Aladag’s In Between Worlds, which premiered at Berlinale 2014, and as a camera operator for the IDFA selection Voice of a Nation: My Journey Through Afghanistan. His documentary Peace in Afghanistan, made for national television, profiled Taliban commander Mullah Tur Jan, who laid down arms in favor of a peaceful civilian life—a controversial move that became the seed from which the journey in Midnight Traveler grew.