Midnight Traveler (15)****

Dir: Hassan Fazili

With: Hassan Fazili, Fatima Hossaini, Nargis Fazili

Runtime: 88 mins

Shot entirely on their own iPhones, this heart-rending account of an Afghan family trying to find safety in the West offers a profound insiders’ look into a situation we’re more used to seeing from the outside. It begins in Tajikistan in 2015, where the Fazili family fled for protection after receiving death threats from the Taliban - Hassan was a filmmaker in Kabul where he and his wife Fatima ran an art cafe that was forced to close after he had previously made a film about a Taliban leader.

After a year of rejected asylum applications, no-one has agreed to help, so as we join them they’re being sent back to Afghanistan, from where they then decide to drive on to Iran and then into Europe with their two young daughters.

A prize winner at film festivals around the world, this remarkable chronicle of their journey is edited together from what is presumably hundreds of hours of footage, tastefully chosen to maximise impact.

We get a view into the mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy they’re required to go through. We’re with them in the backs of vans, walking for days, sleeping in forests, held in detention centres for months on end, faced with protesters and violence. There’s the harrowing reality as they’re compelled to turn to people smugglers who threaten to take the children if they’re not given more money.

It’s in the detention centres where much of the second half of the film takes place, and it does occasionally run out of steam and new things to say. Yet it’s also where the most everyday human interactions play out as they display their anger and fear, boredom and humour.

There’s real power in the film’s quieter moments of kids playing, set against their fortitude at being forced to steal food.

What really hits home are the incidental stories and details relayed throughout via narration, like the close friend of Hassan who felt compelled to join the Taliban because of his anger at the corrupt Afghan government.

It’s an eye-opening state of affairs, and if we can never truly comprehend the decisions taken and the dangers faced, the least we can do is absorb this insight.