Hassan Fazili

USA, Qatar, United Kingdom, Canada, 2019 / 88 min / Persian and English OV with French or English subt. / Documentary

When the Taliban threaten to kill them, an Afghan filmmaker and his family are forced to flee their country.

In 2015, Hassan Fazili’s documentary Peace in Afghanistan about a renegade Taliban commander airs on Afghan national television. Following the broadcast, the Taliban assassinate the film’s main subject and put a bounty on Hassan Fazili’s head. Fearing for their lives, Hassan, his wife and their two young daughters flee from Kabul to Tajikistan before being deported back to Afghanistan when their application for asylum is rejected. Seeing no other option, the family decides to illegally cross over to Europe. This prompts Hassan and his wife, also a filmmaker, to chronicle every step of their harrowing trek with their smartphones. As they endure smugglers, gangs and refugee camps, their phones’ cameras witness not only their desperation and the danger facing refugees but also the tremendous love and tenderness of the family. For the filmmaker couple the act of documenting the story of their perilous journey becomes an assertion of control, humanity, and self-expression in a situation where none exists.

“Hassan Fazili's urgent documentary about his family's exodus from Afghanistan gives a human face to a global refugee crisis.” Scott Tobias, Variety, 21/03/2019

“Over the course of the two years of shooting the film, [Hassan Fazili's] daughters grew up, he and his wife Fatima were both evolving in their hopes and fears, and every member of the Fazili family participated in shooting some element of the film. Much of the insider perspective and humanity of the film emerges as a consequence of this multi-perspectival approach.” Producer’s statement by Emelie Mahdavian

Fri 06/03 14:00 Ciné Utopia Persian & EN OV with FR subt. Public
Mon 09/03 14:00 Cinémathèque Persian & EN OV with EN subt. Public

“This affecting, essential documentary is shot entirely on three phones, spanning several years… It’s a remarkable achievement.” Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

“A humanising and deeply moving portrait of a migrant family traveling from Afghanistan is brought to the screen in an unusual, and striking, manner” Adrian Horton, The Guardian, 25/09/2019

“[Producer Emelie] Mahdavian covers each step in the family’s fractured journey while honoring Fazili’s instinct to pick up on the lighter moments along the way, when his girls are growing and playing and making the best of difficult circumstances. Midnight Traveler has a home-movie quality that’s enormously effective in putting a human face on a global crisis. There are many thousands of families out there just like Fazili’s, seeking shelter from a never-ending storm. The film makes them visible.” Scott Tobias, Variety, 21/03/2019

“Notwithstanding its dark moments, Midnight Traveler (which takes its name from a work by 20th-century Afghan writer Sayd Bahodine Majrouh) is incredibly hopeful. What the Fazilis seek is universal: a life free of danger, a better future. Their courage and equanimity in the face of hardship are genuinely inspiring. […] In showing such a personal, unmeditated view of the global migration crisis through one family’s story, Midnight Traveler is a timely, essential film. That it premiered at Sundance — and will, with luck, help the Fazilis win their asylum case, thus allowing the director to keep making movies — makes it even more uplifting.” Vanessa H. Larson, The Washington Post, 15/10/2019

“Quite simply, this is the best refugee documentary I've ever seen.” Arlin Golden, Film Inquiry, 15/01/2020

“One of the greatest strengths of the film is its central vein of humanity and, surprisingly, hope. Despite their horrific experiences, Fazili and Hossaini remain supportive and loving, their onscreen banter a light in the darkness. The girls are seen at play more often than in tears.” Nikki Baughan, British Film Institute, 16/01/2020

“Statelessness is a difficult condition to pin down on film, but the first-person portraiture of “Midnight Traveler” makes clear both the physical and the psychological constrictions of borders for those at the mercy of asylum laws. Although the plotting of the film is chronological, oriented by dating cards, the cinematic time of Midnight Traveler feels nothing like time in reality; the viewer is consciously disoriented, unbound from calendrical order, the film’s direction mirroring the family’s furtive movements. […] There is a defiance to the Fazilis’ methods of documenting their hell on earth. The film has flair, a sense of style and drama, and of playfulness. […] in his film about national borders, Fazili dissolves the mediating border of the documentary form itself.” Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 17/09/2019

  • Cinema Eye Honors Award – The Unforgettables, Cinema Eye Honors Awards, 2020 (USA)
  • Special Mention – Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Berlin International Film Festival, 2019 (Germany)
  • Life Tales Award – International Competition, Biografilm Festival, 2019 (Italy)
  • Festival Director’s Award – World Documentary, Cinetopia Film Festival, 2019 (USA)
  • Honourable Mention – Feature Documentary Award, DOX Documentary Film Festival, 2019 (Canada)
  • Honourable Mention – Best International Film, DocAviv Film Festival, 2019 (Israel)
  • Best International Feature, Documentary Edge Festival, 2019 (New Zealand)
  • Special Jury Mention, Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival, 2019 (Armenia)
  • Editing Award, Salem Film Fest, 2019 (USA)
  • Best Documentary Feature, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2019 (USA)
  • Special Mention of the Grand Jury, Sheffield Doc/Fest, 2019 (UK)
  • Best Full-Length Documentary Film, St. Petersburg Message to Man Film Festival, 2019 (Russia)
  • FIPRESCI Award, St. Petersburg Message to Man Film Festival, 2019 (Russia)
  • Golden Strands Outstanding Courage in Filmmaking, Tallgrass International Film Festival, 2019 (USA)
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award – No Borders, Sundance Film Festival, 2019 (USA)
  • Special Jury Award – International Competition, Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, 2019 (Greece)
Cast & Credits
Nargis Fazili, Zahra Fazili, Fatima Hussaini, Hassan Fazili
Emelie Mahdavian
Hassan Fazili, Nargis Fazili, Zahra Fazili, Fatima Hussaini
Daniel Timmons
Gretchen Jude
Old Chilly Pictures

Hassan Fazili is an Afghan theatre, documentary, short film and TV series director. In 2011, he was selected by the British Council to attend Sheffield Doc/Fest for documentary filmmaking networking and training. His films Mr. Fazili's Wife (2011) and Life Again! (2009) push the envelope on issues of women's, children's and disability rights in Afghanistan, and have screened and won awards at numerous international festivals. His TV documentary Peace in Afghanistan (2015), made for national Afghan television, profiled Taliban commander Mullah Tur Jan, who laid down arms in favor of a peaceful civilian life. The film led Hassan Fazili to flee his native Afghanistan, an odyssey he chronicled in his latest documentary Midnight Traveler (2019). The latter screened in numerous film festivals, such as Sundance and Sheffield Doc/Fest and has won several prizes.

  • 2019 – Midnight Traveler (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2015 – Peace in Afghanistan (documentaire / documentary / Dokumentarfilm)
  • 2011 – Mr. Fazili’s Wife (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)
  • 2009 – Life Again! (court-métrage / short / Kurzfilm)