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Silent Trees Featured, Cinematic Threat Reviews

Writer-director Agnieszka Zwiefka takes a unique approach in Silent trees, a documentary that not only sheds light on the global refugee crisis, but also incorporates captivating animation. The story takes place in the tense red zone between Belarus and Poland, where migrants are given specific instructions on how to cross. Poland, however, is setting up additional checkpoints in the border forest, which adds to the difficulties for migrants.

Into this uncertain landscape arrive Runa and her mother, her father and her four brothers. Unfortunately, the 16-year-old’s mother cannot cope. But after a grueling journey, the six members of the family arrive in a migrant camp in Poland. But this is only the beginning of their ordeal. Runa and her family must learn Polish, go to school, find a job and seek permanent residency. But things aren’t all doom and gloom, as Runa quickly makes a friend, despite the literally grim outcome, as her eyesight erodes. Can this Kurdish family integrate into this new territory, stay close to each other and find each other in the process?

“…the six members of the family arrive in a migrant camp in Poland. But this is only the beginning of their ordeal.

Zwiefka directs Silent trees with masterful confidence, inviting the audience to sympathize with Runa’s emotional journey. When one of Runa’s brothers declares that Kurdistan is “the greatest country ever,” it’s not because he hates every other place. It’s because it’s all he knows, and there’s so much to do just to be able to stay, but it’s overwhelming. The sympathetic camera quietly observes the moments of stress and joy, taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster. Runa’s quest to learn English so that she can learn Polish and become the family’s interpreter is a masterfully handled plot thread, drawing the audience into her world.

Similar to the remarkable Flee, this film ventures into uncharted emotional territory. Runa’s inner world comes vividly to life through stunning black and white drawings. These animated sequences are poignant windows into his anxiety and frustrations. The haunting shadows of the silent trees of the forest seem to trap Runa, mirroring her emotional journey. Without giving too much away, the final animation is a powerful culmination of everything Runa has endured. It’s a deeply moving and resonant moment.

Silent trees isn’t an easy watch, but that’s the point. Just because someone crosses the border doesn’t mean their life is all sunshine and roses afterward. But Runa is lucky because she is smart, loves people, and wants to learn more about her potential new home. Additionally, her father cares for and supports her, doing his best to guide the family through this crazy time. Zwiefka directs with an authoritative and assured eye and allows all viewers to understand the inner turmoil of the documentary’s subject.