TIFF ’23: Green Border

In this harrowing contemporary humanist drama, auteur Agnieszka Holland becomes the second Polish film of TIFF to look at the banality of evil but shows us how it’s happening in the present. Shot in a very draining black and white verite documentary style, Green Border acts as an intercrossing anthology film about different people involved in the refugee conflict that takes place between Belarus and Poland (also known as the Green Border).

The film starts with a family who have been granted passage to Belarus as they flee Syria. However, the passage they’ve been granted has only landed them in new hostile territory as in the wake of being defeated in a democratic election. In 2021, the Belarusian dictator brought in the refugees who were seeking asylum in Europe. He hoped to have them secured across the border into Poland as the beginning of the EU and hoped to overwhelm their ability to house refugees. In response, Poland begins to put up walls reinforced by barbed wires but, as more refugees arrive, the conflict escalates. Soon. it becomes an emergency situation that sees these refugee families starving, lacking water, and being exposed to the cold often wintery conditions. This conflict is what Holland takes aim at in this new feature, revealing the human suffering and the caste system being created as the refugees get pushed from one country to another in a wicked game of political sportsmanship that begets the lives of innocent families.

Green Border is very well made, featuring harrowing sequences with great actors who always nail the fear and despair that come from the terrible conditions and the fight that they have to go through to find shelter. The family we follow already has an uncle in Sweden but they aren’t able to make it there or find transportation due to the abuse and entrapment of both Belarus’s and Poland’s border control. Holland also reveals the perspective of one border guard, as well as the activists keeping the film’s narrative interesting, sending it in new directions while still focusing on the tragedies happening with the refugee families. The acting is all really well done and Holland does great work fleshing the basics of their character efficiently. We see how these people react under the pressure and witness both the moments of triumph and the somber horrifying moments where we see their humanity stripped of them, even as people who could help them simply look on and vilify them.

Green Border is now playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.

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