2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: MIDNIGHT TRAVELER

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Lutfallah Bakhtary

Hassan Fazili, his wife, and their two daughters face an uncertain road to asylum when they are forced to flee Afghanistan.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

In 2015, after Hassan Fazili’s documentary PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN aired on Afghan national television, the Taliban assassinated the film’s main subject and put a price on Fazili’s head. Fearing for their survival, the Fazili family fled Kabul for Tajikistan. Yet after 14 months spent submitting asylum applications that were rejected again and again, they were deported back to Afghanistan. It was at this juncture that Fazili picked up his cell phone and hit the record button.

Chronicling every step from inside the action, Fazili, his filmmaker wife, and their young daughters trek across Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Serbia – scurrying through perilous landscapes, huddling in freezing forests, cramming into rattling vehicles. As they endure smugglers, gangs, and refugee camps, the camera witnesses not only the danger and desperation but also the exuberance and tenderness of this irresistible, loving family. For Fazili, framing their story becomes an assertion of control, humanity, and self-expression in a situation where none exists. With its radical subjectivity, visceral footage, and poetic form, MIDNIGHT TRAVELER is a migration story like no other.

Some Background:

  • Hassan Fazili

    Fazili received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program for this, his feature debut. His shorts have screened at international festivals and on Afghan television.


  • Emelie Mahdavian

    This marks the first Sundance project for Mahdavian, a Fulbright scholar focusing on Central Asian cinema.



  • Fatima Hussaini

    This is the first Sundance credit for Hussaini, who has a background as an actress and as the director of short experimental films. She is Fazili’s wife and shot and appears in the doc.

  • Ahmad Imami

    Imami also makes his Sundance debut with this project. He studied cinema at Kabul University, where he made several short films.


  • Kristina Motwani
    Past Sundance docs:

    AFTER TILLER (2013)

Consulting Editor:

  • Nels Bangerter
    Past Sundance docs:

    PROJECT X (2017, short)

Why You Should Watch:
Fazili and his family capture their arduous journey with a rawness and candor that matches their reality. Despite the struggle, their individual personalities and resilience shine through.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist Profile

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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