Midnight Returns: The Story of Billy Hayes explores the making of the cult classic Academy Award winning film Midnight Express, as well as the international controversy it started with Turkey and the true story around Billy Hayes‘ infamous imprisonment for drug smuggling. This documentary of sorts looks at both the emotional and political power of Midnight Express, a movie that was partially based on true accounts, and partially altered to fit the needs of a Hollywood production. Snapshot review below.

After his ingenious escape from a Turkish prison in 1975, Billy Hayes arrived home to a hero’s welcome, instant celebrity and within a week had a book and movie deal for his story.  From the moment it stunned the world at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978, ‘Midnight Express’ cemented its place in film history as an artistic and financial success, before becoming an indelible part of pop culture. Its lasting impact has been on Turkish people worldwide who still condemn the film as racist and blame Billy Hayes for defaming them and their country.  


The film is written, directed and produced by the Emmy winning and WGA award winning Sally Sussman (Days of our LivesThe Young and the Restless), who is originally from Toronto. The film goes behind the scenes to chat with all those involved with the making of the film, Hayes’ brother, sister, ex-girlfriend, and other childhood friends, as well as Turkish diplomats who were in office at the time. This was a time of political unrest during the Nixon era, and the film was banned in many countries due to protests in the streets over its falsified nature. The exclusive clips with Oliver Stone and Alan Parker are alone worth watching this for. Also, disco pioneering musician Giorgio Moroder worked on the soundtrack, which was at the height of his success working with such divas as Donna Summer.

Despite warnings from family and friends, Billy wants to make amends with the Turkish nation and its people. Now living in New York City, he works through his local consulate to try and gain admittance to a country that he’s been banned from and wanted in for several decades. Hayes eventually is granted a visitor visa upon receiviing an invite to speak at an international human rights conference. He returns to Turkey and faces a nation of many who still harbour ill will toward him, and the uncertainly of what will await him. A turkey that has changed as much as the rest of the world since Hayes spent time there backpacking, getting high, and ending up incarcerated. A flick worth watching for both the historical and political relevance that’s just as important today as it was in the 1970s.

Midnight Return plays at Toronto’s Royal Cinema (608 College Street) for a limited engagement run, beginning January 30 2018. Sussman will be in attendance at all screenings.

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About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment, and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors, and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats. Reach out - bryen@thebuzzmag.ca