“Green Border”: Syrian migrants tossed around at the gates of Belarus

“Green Border”: Syrian migrants tossed around at the gates of Belarus


Immersion. This is the right word to describe the fiction of Polish director Agnieszka Holland Green Border , in competition in Venice in 2023, which created a shock and was awarded the Special Jury Prize.

Inspired by real events that occurred in 2021, the film follows a family of Syrians who decide to leave their country and fly to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The couple, their two children, the paternal grandfather, etc., then hope to continue their journey aboard a van, to finally arrive in Sweden, where an uncle is waiting for them. An Afghan lady who fled Kabul joins the journey, providing material assistance and her knowledge of English. But nothing goes as planned: the small group is disembarked by guards on the border with Poland, in Podlachia, in the middle of the woods, with a roll of barbed wire as the only horizon.

Tossed on either side of this line, the family will pay the price for a policy that goes far beyond them, Belarus using the fate of migrants as a weapon of destabilization with regard to Europe.

Existential questions

In 2021, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko opened a new migration route passing through Minsk, dangling the prospect of rapid passage to the European Union. In fact, the men and women were turned away in turn by the Polish or Belarusian authorities. The “green border”, because it is drawn in the middle of the conifers, quickly becomes a morbid space that the director films in black and white, after a few seconds of color images, captured above the tree line.

Born in 1948, Agnieszka Holland prides herself on political, committed cinema, asking existential questions, notably on the future of Europe, which is increasingly barricading itself, in defiance of the principles of welcome and the right to asylum. When it was released in Poland in September 2023, Green Border was the subject of a hate campaign by ultraconservatives.

This drama, filmed with a hand-held camera, places the spectator at the center of the device, placing him in a position of witness, at the height of the protagonists. The film also gives the opportunity to appreciate the different points of view, through chapters devoted to border guards, humanitarian activists, or this woman, Julia, who one day decides to get involved, while she is arrested by a migrant in distress. Association activists take risks and must – theoretically – limit their involvement, not intervene in certain cases, if they do not want to be arrested. Because they could lose their jobs. But, sometimes, the heart beats harder than the right.

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