In the 1990 Holocaust drama Europa Europa, Oscar-nominated Polish auteur Agnieszka Holland portrayed life under a fascist stronghold and the horrors one must endure to simply survive. More than 30 years later, she has helmed an equally unflinching call to action in Green Border, a powerful and timely drama set against the migrant crisis in Europe.

"It was very urgent not only to show what's going on, but also to give back the face and voice to the voiceless and faceless," Holland said following an Academy-hosted screening of Green Border. "We didn't want to show our political agenda or whatever; we wanted to enter the point of view of these specific human beings, exactly because they are humans and because they are specific."

The fact-based film is set along the "green border" between Belarus and Poland, where refugees from the Middle East and Africa are trapped in a geopolitical crisis engineered by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Green Border unfolds through multiple perspectives, including border guards, activists, and a Syrian family fleeing ISIS and trying to make it to the European Union.

Green Border premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, where it was awarded a Special Jury Prize. Meanwhile, in her native Poland, Holland and her film have been denounced by the country's right-wing government; Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro compared the movie to Nazi propaganda, while President Andrzej Duda quoted the WWII slogan, "Only pigs sit in the cinema."

"Actually, it was great promotion for the movie," Holland good-naturedly reacts now, "even if I received the threats of death and had to hire bodyguards for a few weeks." For the filmmaker, it was worth it to get the movie seen: "The reaction from the audience [has been] so emotional and liberating."

Watch the full Academy Conversation below to hear more from Holland about her hopes for the impact that Green Border will have: "My film may not change the world, but I can at least speak to one person."


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