REVIEW – ‘RECLAIMING THE NIGHT’ DIRECTED BY DANIEL BENJAMIN WHEELER

A raw and insightful exploration of the path from trauma to healing, Daniel Benjamin Wheeler’s Reclaiming the Night reveals the profound changes that can occur when children are given the tools to confront and transform their deepest traumas.
© Daniel Benjamin Wheeler

Documentary filmmaking is a medium where empathy and insight are paramount, and few contemporary directors embody these qualities as profoundly as Daniel Benjamin Wheeler. A British journalist and award-winning filmmaker, Wheeler has dedicated his career to shedding light on some of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time. His work spans the globe, covering human rights issues and armed conflicts from Afghanistan to Ukraine and Iraq. 

Wheeler’s latest documentary, Reclaiming the Night, centers around the work of Norwegian Professor Jon-Håkon Schultz, who has developed a pioneering program to help children cope with trauma through therapeutic interventions. Schultz’s dedication to helping children overcome their nightmares caused by war is portrayed with a depth that is both heart-breaking and uplifting.

© Daniel Benjamin Wheeler

From the opening quote by Holocaust survivor and renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, Wheeler sets a tone that is both reflective and hopeful. The quote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves,” encapsulates the central theme of the documentary. This thematic consistency is one of the film’s strengths, grounding the narrative in a powerful message of adaptation and healing. 

Throughout the film, Professor Schultz emerges as a deeply empathetic figure. His recounting of experiences, from Northern Uganda to Syrian refugee camps, is both poignant and enlightening. Schultz’s genuine care for the children and his unwavering commitment to their well-being are palpable throughout the film. Wheeler effectively allows Schultz’s passion and compassion to shine, creating an intimate connection between the audience and the subject. 

Wheeler’s focus on the personal toll of Schultz’s work adds a profound layer of humanity to the documentary. By returning to Tromsø at the film’s end after following Schultz on a research trip to Lebanon, we see Schultz reflecting on his experiences, contemplating the emotional and psychological costs of his work. This reflective bookend provides a sense of both closure and continuity, highlighting the resilience and unwavering commitment of Schultz. It’s a poignant reminder that while the journey is fraught with challenges, it’s one that Schultz – and by extension, Wheeler and his crew – are willing to undertake repeatedly.

© Daniel Benjamin Wheeler

Reclaiming the Night is a powerful testament to the impact one dedicated individual can have on the lives of many. Wheeler’s insightful filmmaking and Schultz’s tireless dedication combine to create a documentary that is both heartbreaking and hopeful, offering a compelling narrative of resilience and transformation.

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