Berlin Film Festival Part 2: Midnight Traveler—“Sometimes life takes you through hell”


Berlin Film Festival Part 2: Midnight Traveler—“Sometimes life takes you through hell”

Verena Nees

22 February 2019

A number of notable films have been made about the tragic plight of refugees in recent years, with some winning prizes at the Berlinale. Midnight Traveler, however, which was shown this year and voted second-best documentary film by festival audiences, goes under the skin like no other.

The film centres on a filmmaker and his family, who documented their flight from Afghanistan on three mobile phones. During their flight, the filmmaker and his wife sent their mobile phone video recordings to a friend in America, the scriptwriter Emelie Mahdavian, who took charge of the film’s production.

In real-time and in painfully close proximity, the viewer witnesses how Hassan Fazili, Fatima Hussaini and their two daughters Nargis and Zahra, aged 11 and 6, are forced to quit their homeland, friends and relatives and begin a perilous journey through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, seeking to reach Germany and the European Union.

Towards the start of the film the cynical statement of philosopher Jean Paul Sartre is featured: “Hell is other people.” Hassan declares he does not believe this, but adds “sometimes life takes you through hell.”

Nargis in the transit zone. © Old Chilly Pictures

The audience feels as if it is directly present when smugglers illegally transport the family across borders at the cost of all of the family’s savings. They are forced to wait months and even years in various camps and barracks along the Balkan route, cramped together unbearably, plagued by mosquitoes, or forced to camp out in the rain and cold in a forest before the last agonising sprint to the border. At the end of the film, following months of torment in…

Read more