Green Border

Green Border

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Agnieszka Holland’s “Green Border” is a very powerful film that deals with the tragedy of Europe- wide- refugee-crisis similar to that in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and America’s southern border. This is not only because of the tremendous importance of its subject but also because it is a great piece. The first time I saw it at New York Film Festival last fall I was literally shaken as I walked out of the theater -not just for an amazing story or plot but also for what seems like moments by moment power through which Holland captures his audience.

The title’s border is between Poland and Belarus, the latter being its neighbor to the east. It is shot from above, where we see one part of this border which looks beautiful like millions in Europe virgin forests where it leads us to. However this does not continue as long. Soon enough however, things change and soon we find ourselves plunged into a human world of violent oppositions and tragic ironies.

At first were are flying on a plane that has many individual passengers as well as families; some of them yawning while others are talking eagerly about their goal which they have set: safety, freedom. They are coming from such places like Syria and Afghanistan in devastated East. After landing at the airport in Minsk all these people start using their mobile phones to talk with relatives who can help them survive abroad. Finally, a van pulls over; then people climb aboard it while children discuss how they will be able to get to Sweden within hours later? Adults remind that they need to go through any neighboring EU country so that may happen (Poland).

It turns out that behind this wall lies a dense forest full of trees everywhere. When these passengers are dropped off unceremoniously into this remote place they quickly discover themselves pitted against each other within international gamesmanship for more life-or-death situations. Polish soldiers meet them only to push them back across the wire wall. But, Belarusians are harsh on them again as they throw them back into Poland. It is like a terrible ping-pong game that never ends and which stakes are very high.

Even if the western world has missed its importance, the situation being portrayed here is not a fiction. The crisis began in late 2021 when Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Belarus’s Putin-allied, autocratic president started giving free transport visas and means of travelling to individuals from the Middle East and Africa who were seeking Europe. His sole intention appeared to be causing some sort of instability among EU countries that weren’t ready to receive refugees and asylum seekers from distant, strange lands. (Holland notes Poland’s racial/cultural dimensions of this resistance by remembering that as recently as last year it let two million Ukrainians in through her borders openhandedly.)

The cinema undoubtedly has unique potency for laying bare human realities in such situations where a bunch of strangers are stuck in a terrible nightmarish worsening condition. Here politics are at arm’s length. The actualities are only refugee hopelessness, bewilderment, disarray and perseverance even under brutal assaults against them; Holland paints vibrant pictures of these poor helpless people – including a Muslim family headed by an obstinate old man (Mohamad Al Rashi) refusing to leave his prayer mat behind despite all perils – while smoothly avoiding sentimental clichés inherent in such premises.

Refugee’s story is one amongst three major narrative strands of the film. Another follows Tomasz Wlosok)– a young Polish soldier soon to become father who reluctantly begins questioning his loyalty after he witnesses the consequences brought about by “just following orders.”

The third line presents itself as a variety of people who come into woods trying to help suffering refugees The Polish authorities may have embraced any spontaneous relief giver since there was desperate need for immediate help But instead right-wing regime declared itself “at war” thereby concluding that anyone assisting migrants would be helping their adversaries’ intentions Consequently simple humanitarian aid became both dangerous and heroic at once.

On the one hand there were those who came from afar to help the refugees, on the other hand there were local people being shocked by such brutal acts that happened next door and were not known to them before. One of these, Julia (Maja Ostaszewska), is a psychiatrist who joins the fray when she hears a woman screaming for help outside her house one night. Leila (Behi Djanati Atai) whom she saves is an Afghan lady who has been trying to assist fellow refugees throughout most of the story; ironically, she wanted to claim asylum in Poland.

Holland, on the other hand, has been known for its exceptional performances by actors and “Green Border” is no exception. Nonetheless, I believe Ostaszewska and Djanti Atai are the best; they deserve awards just as they were given to Germany’s Sandra Huller last year for her work in “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest.”

“Green Border”, like Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” a few years ago, is reminiscent of the great moral substance found in Polish cinema during post-World War II period. It should be mentioned that two masters of that Renaissance, Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi, were once guides to Agnieszka Holland. The eloquence of Tomek Naumiuk’s black and white cinematography adds to the sustained brilliance of Holland’s visual style with its fluidly mobile compositions and evocative views of nature.

Poland’s authorities have not applauded this accomplishment or Holland. One described it as being “shameful, repulsive and disgusting.” In another instance one said that director was similar to “Soviets and Nazis who used propaganda films to destroy the image of Poland and Poles.”

Last fall, In October 2019 In New York Times, after acclaimed debut at Venice Film Festival (the campaign of vilification continues online unfortunately), it quoted her saying that her movie was about refugees from Syria coming into Poland.” That simple response took me back to Roger Ebert’s wonderful definition in his book about movies as machines for creating empathy. No recent movie has honored that definition with more geopolitical prescience and humane passion than Green Border.

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