Green Border

Agnieszka Holland’s poignant war drama, Green Border, doesn’t explicitly focus on any particular conflict, but its harrowing depiction of the struggles of refugees from the Middle East and Africa resonates deeply. While the film explores the horrors of war, it also offers a glimmer of hope through the actions of those who fight for basic human rights. While the film’s subject matter is undeniably challenging, Holland’s masterful direction and the film’s powerful storytelling make it a truly moving experience. Green Border is a testament to the enduring human spirit, leaving viewers feeling inspired and galvanized. This quietly impactful film, which won the special jury prize at Venice last year, is poised to be one of the most compelling films of the year.

Shot in elegant black and white, Green Border opens with the story of Bashir (Jalal Altawil) and Amina (Dalia Naous) and their three young children who are fleeing their home in Syria. They are joined by Bashir’s elderly father (Al Rashi Mohamad) and Leila (Behi Djanati Atai), a middle-aged teacher from Afghanistan they meet on the flight. Their journey takes them to Belarus, with the hope of eventually reaching Sweden, but their plans quickly unravel when they encounter corrupt officials and hostile border guards.

After crossing the border into Poland, the group is promptly apprehended by Polish authorities and forced back to Belarus. Trapped between two countries, their plight highlights the callous indifference of governments who prioritize political agendas over the lives of desperate refugees. The border police are depicted as brutal and heartless, and the natural environment itself becomes a dangerous obstacle. Despite the film’s bleakness, Holland’s sensitive direction allows viewers to feel the characters’ desperation and resilience, reminding us that even in the face of adversity, there is always hope for a better future. The film also explores the internal struggles of Jan (Tomasz Wlosok), a Polish border guard whose training has left him morally compromised. As the story unfolds, we see the dedication of a group of Polish underground rescue workers who risk their own safety to provide aid and support to the refugees. Their compassion and selflessness offer a stark contrast to the brutality of the border guards, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, there are those who stand ready to help.

Green Border masterfully handles its heavy themes without resorting to sentimentality or preachiness. Holland’s decades-long career in filmmaking, from her breakthrough film Europa Europa to her more recent works like the environmental parable Spoor, has established her as a gifted storyteller with a keen eye for humanity. Despite the film’s powerful message of compassion and justice, it has faced criticism from the right-wing political forces in Poland. However, Green Border‘s impact goes beyond mere entertainment, inspiring audiences to care deeply about the plight of refugees and the need for a more humane and compassionate world. It’s a powerful reminder that even in the face of adversity, there are still individuals who choose to stand up for what is right, and that true courage lies in the pursuit of justice and human dignity.