Green Border: a contender for ‘the most distressing film ever made’

The fury that radiates off the veteran Polish director Agnieszka Holland’s film “Green Border” “is so intense that you can almost feel it encasing you in its heat”, said Manohla Dargis in The New York Times. “A brutal, deeply affecting drama” rooted in real events, it follows refugees from the Middle East and Africa as they attempt to enter the European Union via Belarus and Poland. 

The film is mainly set “in the so-called exclusion zone” between the two countries, a “haunted, contested, dangerously swampy slice of land” patrolled by armed guards, who show no mercy to those migrants who are unfortunate enough to be caught by them. The characters include a “tense” Syrian couple (Jalal Altawil and Dalia Naous) who are travelling with their family; and Leila (Behi Djanati Atai), “a middle-aged Afghan gutsily making the journey alone”. The cruelty they and others encounter is shocking, but “the rigour of Holland’s filmmaking, and the steadfastness of her compassion, help steady you as a viewer. Pay attention, you can almost hear her whispering in your ear: pay witness.” 

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