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Midnight Traveler: Uncertain Journeys to and through the EU

October 16, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

This event focuses on the film Midnight Traveler, a 2019 documentary filmed on cell phone cameras by a family of filmmakers, whose quest for political asylum takes them from Afghanistan to Europe. This documentary is a first-hand account of displacement and border crossing, providing insights into the cruelties of border regimes and systems of refugee governance.

A link to watch the film Midnight Traveler in advance was emailed to those who RSVP’ed.

This event is part of the conference “Encountering Difference, Embodying Boundaries, and Unsettling Borders: Middle Eastern Refugees and Immigrants in the European Union”. Conference events take place Fridays October 9-November 6 from 12-1:30pm ET.


Emelie Mahdavian
Producer, Writer, and Editor of Midnight Traveler
Emelie Mahdavian is a filmmaker, dancer, and humanities scholar. She produced, wrote, and edited MIDNIGHT TRAVELER which won a Peabody Award, a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and was nominated for an Emmy for Current Affairs Documentary and a Gotham Award for Best Documentary. The film broadcast in the US on PBS’ acclaimed series POV and was distributed theatrically by Oscilloscope Laboratories. Emelie was nominated (with Su Kim) for Best Production at the Cinema Eye Honors and was awarded Best Editing at Salem Film Festival. Her editing credits include DREAMS OF DARAA (dir. Reilly Dowd), SINGING IN THE WILDERNESS (dir. Dongnan Chen), PEOPLE’S HOSPITAL (dir. Siyi Chen), and SARAH (dir. Tracy Droz Tragos). Her dance film work has screened at museums and international festivals including the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum and at Dance on Camera at Lincoln Center. Emelie studied filmmaking at London Film School and has a Ph.D. in Performance Studies with an emphasis on Film Practice as Research from the University of California, Davis. She is Producer-in-Residence in the Department of Film and Media Arts at the University of Utah. She is currently completing BITTERBRUSH, a documentary set in the American West.

Nadia Yaqub
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Nadia Yaqub (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) is the author of Pens, Swords, and the Springs of Art: the Oral Poetry Dueling of Weddings in the Galilee (Brill, 2006), Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution (University of Texas Press, 2018) and numerous articles and book chapters about Arab film and literature. She is also coeditor with Rula Quawas of Bad Girls of the Arab World (University of Texas Press, 2017). Her current research projects include an edited volume about visual representations of the Gaza Strip titled “Gaza On Screen” and a book about engaged Arab cinema of the 1970s and 1980s with a focus on transnational connections and regional initiatives. She teaches courses on Arab film, literature, and photography.

Christian Wilhelm
Humboldt University of Berlin
Christian Wilhelm is the manager of the international master programs of the Department of Social Sciences at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. During the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015 he initiated the opening of the German-Turkish GeT MA program for refugees. This created a unique opportunity for refugees to access the German university system. In addition to the opening of the program, he developed additional support services for refugee students and linked the project with other initiatives of the university.

Lily Herbert
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lily Herbert is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research incorporates critical geography and critical race theory to spatially analyze US federal hate crime data, and the complexities of data collection. She is interested in creating research communication products that make quantitative data accessible to the public, and inspire greater attention to how data are produced. Lily also works in spatial data science and digital communications. She enjoys drawing on diverse skills to connect the public with educational opportunities and research.

Film Trailer & Director Interview

The Unsettling Borders 2020 Conference is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, and co-sponsored by the UNC Center for European Studies, the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, UNC Global, the UNC Center for Middle East & Islamic Studies, and the Duke Middle East Studies Center. The conference is organized by a team of academics from the UNC Department of Geography and Purdue University.

EU flag with the text co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Flyer advertising Unsettling Borders Conference in October 2020.


October 16, 2020
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
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