June 14, 2024

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There’s a crisis at the border: migrants stranded in desperate conditions, steel and barbed wire barriers thrown in their path. 

We’re not talking about the U.S.-Mexico border, but the one separating Poland and Belarus. Poland has spent over $400 million erecting a wall stretching more than a hundred miles, designed to repel migrants mostly from Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. Belarus, meanwhile, has been accused of luring asylum-seekers to its country with a false promise of easy passage into European Union countries like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, in a cynical attempt to destabilize the EU. 

Into this calamitous humanitarian situation steps filmmaker Kasia Smutniak with her documentary Walls, which premiered this month at the 2023 Toronto Film Festival. The actress-turned-director is our guest on Episode 3 of Doc Talk, the new podcast hosted by Oscar-winning writer-director John Ridley and Deadline’s Documentary Editor Matt Carey. Doc Talk is a production of Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios, presented in association with National Geographic Documentary Films. 

Smutniak, who was born in Poland and became a star of Italian cinema (including Paolo Sorrentino’s Loro), explains why she returned to her native country to expose conditions at the Belarusian border. The project put Smutniak and her filmmaking team in peril and subject to arrest – Poland prohibits approaching the border wall. “The zone is off-limits to the public, including aid workers and journalists,” notes Al Jazeera. 

“Smutniak’s film harnesses the pacing of a thriller,” TIFF says, “to reveal that some walls are invisible, insurmountable, and built to arbitrarily divide humans into those worthy of sympathy and those who aren’t.” 

That’s on Episode 3 of Doc Talk, a podcast exploring the art of documentary film.

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