If cinema is an empathy machine, to paraphrase the late Roger Ebert, then Agnieszka Holland’s new movie is one precision-tooled specimen.
This profoundly shifting, flawlessly executed multi-strand drama, shot in stark black and white, tracks refugees from varied nations in 2021 making an attempt to cross the border from Belarus into Poland. With inevitably tragic penalties, they turn out to be pawns in a ugly sport of “go the parcel” between guards on each side of the title’s inexperienced border, the dividing line between European Union member Poland and Russia ally Belarus.
The Backside Line
A devastating dramatic triumph.
Though the violence proven isn’t gratuitous, the struggling in Inexperienced Border (Zielona granica) is painfully palpable. There’s a second the place a Pole, a minor character within the story, refuses to have a look at a video on a buddy’s telephone displaying a border guard beating a migrant; Holland’s movie implicitly confronts everybody — and that may be most of us — who has ever switched off or turned away from watching one more deplorable act of state-sponsored violence.
On the information and in cinema, there was no scarcity of footage and re-enactments of the agonies suffered on daily basis by migrants and refugees. However Holland cunningly digs somewhat deeper right here to discover the psyches of characters who may simply be faceless heavies in different tales — just like the Polish border guards, proven inspired by an officer giving a “morale” speak to think about migrants as weapons despatched throughout the border by Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Not lengthy after the part that includes these troopers and their group, the body pulls again additional to embody a few of their compatriots who’re making an attempt to assist the refugees. A few of these volunteers are docs or attorneys, however others are activists against the right-wing regime of President Andrzej Duda — individuals placing their very own security in danger but additionally generally fracturing the resistance with infighting over methods. Altogether, these braided strands make for a bracing, impassioned skein of humanist cinema, old-school in method however proper up to date by way of its material.
The motion begins a few 12 months earlier than the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, when migrants from war-torn international locations like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been inspired by Lukashenko to make use of Belarus as a gateway to Poland and the EU. However the individuals we meet touring on a Turkish aircraft within the movie’s first scene don’t know this was a merciless trick, designed by Belarus to make their EU-member neighbors seem like the dangerous guys once they refuse to increase asylum to the refugees and ship them again over the border.
Aboard the aircraft, a Syrian household of six from Harasta have managed to outlive the civil warfare at dwelling and hope to go by way of Belarus and Poland en path to Sweden. Bashir (Jalal Altawil, a Syrian refugee himself) actually has scars on his again from a run-in with ISIS. Accompanying Bashir are his father (Mohamad Al Rashi), Bashir’s spouse Amina (Dalia Naous), pre-adolescent son Nur (Taim Ajjan), his youthful sister Ghalia (Talia Ajjan) and a toddler who continues to be breastfeeding. The household attempt to strike up a dialog with a lady sitting subsequent to them, Leila (Behi Djanati Atai), solely to comprehend that she speaks no Arabic, solely English and her native tongue. Later, we be taught that Leila is from Afghanistan and needs to hunt asylum in Poland.
After they get to Belarus, the Syrian household supply to let Leila trip with them to Poland in a taxi that’s already been paid for by Bashir’s brother (Noah Meskina) in Sweden. However the driver rips them off for more cash, which Leila pays, and so they should make the tough crossing illegally within the night time, frightened by the sound of capturing within the distance.
After they’re captured by the Polish border guards, Leila and the Syrians are herded along with terrified refugees from different international locations and shipped again to Belarus, only the start of an more and more brutal ordeal that sees them crossing the border a number of instances. All are overwhelmed by guards on each side. Others within the get together die by drowning within the marshes, or from publicity, shock, dehydration or hunger. In one of many movie’s most surprising scenes — one with many correlations in present occasions — a pregnant African girl is actually thrown over the border, inflicting what appears like a miscarriage.
When the main target shifts to the Polish characters, at first it’s virtually a aid till we see how a lot this infernal state of affairs has warped and traumatized them too. Of the guards, the one we get to know finest is Jan (Tomasz Wlosok), who’s anticipating a child along with his spouse (Malwina Buss, who is definitely married to Wlosok in actual life). Though Jan is tenderly involved about his personal spouse and unborn youngster, someway he struggles to increase that empathy to the pregnant refugees he meets on this course of labor.
Psychiatrist Julia (Maja Ostaszewska), alternatively, makes her dwelling by way of empathy, filling the silence in her life with take care of sufferers, particularly within the wake of her husband’s current dying. After she helps two refugees we’ve met earlier within the movie who get caught in a swamp close to her home, she is so appalled by how the state treats them that she joins up with a grassroots activist cell devoted to bringing healthcare and recommendation to these caught within the no man’s land-like exclusion zone close to the border.
The entire above simply scratches the floor of the teeming plot, credited to Maciej Pisuk, Gabriela Lazarkiewicz-Sieczko and Holland. The latter additionally shares her directing credit score with Kamila Tarabura and Katarzyna Warzecha, and it’s not onerous to see how this panoramic drama would wish additional administrators to marshal all of the strands and storylines. And but it by no means feels bitty or fragmented because the drama pulls every little thing collectively by the top with a coda set simply after warfare between Ukraine and Russia begins in 2022.
Amid all of the justified sympathy for Ukrainians displaced by that battle, there have been a number of quiet voices talking up again then noting that the refugee disaster a 12 months earlier than — one involving individuals who didn’t look as very like Poles and different EU residents — didn’t get anyplace close to the identical publicity. Inexperienced Border is one cinematic step towards rectifying that imbalance whereas acknowledging that, everywhere in the world, 1000’s of individuals have died whereas making an attempt to flee poverty and battle.
Venue: Venice Movie Competition (Competitors)
Solid: Jalal Altawil, Maja Ostaszewska, Behi Djanati Atai, Mohamad Al Rashi, Dalia Naous, Tomasz Wlosok, Malwina Buss
Manufacturing firms: Metro Movies, Astute Movies, Blick Manufacturing, Marlene Movie Manufacturing, Beluga Tree, CANAL+ Poland, dFLIGHTS, Czech Tv, Mazovia Warsaw Movie Fund
Administrators: Agnieszka Holland, in collaboration with Kamila Tarabura and Katarzyna Warzecha
Screenwriters: Maciej Pisuk, Gabriela Lazarkiewicz-Sieczko, Agnieszka Holland
Producers: Marcin Wierzchoslawski, Fred Bernstein, Agnieszka Holland
Govt producers: Mike Downey, Jeff Area, Emir Kulal Haznevi, Daniel Bergman
Co-producers: Maria Blicharska, Damien McDonald, Sarka Cimbalova, Diana Elbaum, David Ragonig, Beata Ryczkowska, Malgorzata Seck, Dominika Kulczyk
Director of Pictures: Tomek Naumiuk
Manufacturing designer: Katarzyna Jedrzejcsyk
Costume designer: Katarzyna Lewinska
Editor: Pavel Hrdlicka
Sound: Roman Dymny
Music: Frederic Vercheval
Casting: Paulina Krajnik, Klementyna Szymanska, Behi Djanati Atai
Gross sales: Movies Boutique
2 hours 42 minutes