The award-winning migration drama 'The Green Border' has been slammed by right-wing leaders as film opens in Poland.
Right-wing Polish leaders have denounced Zielonca Granica (The Green Border), the new film by celebrated director Agnieszka Holland, as it premiered in the country.
They accuse the work of defaming Poland with its exploration of a migration crisis along the border with Belarus.
The Green Border won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, and certain government officials in Poland had already criticized the film - with most of them acknowledging they had not seen it.
The film is an emotionally devastating wake-up call for EU nations and their inaction with regards to the horrors on the edge of Europe.
The Polish filmmaker dramatizes the plight of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, who are lured to the Belarusian-Polish border by Belarusian government propaganda promising safe passage into the European Union. Instead, they find themselves trapped in a hellish to-and-fro overseen by both the Belarusian and Polish governments, cast as geopolitical pawns in a rigged game orchestrated by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. (Read our full review.)
Upcoming Polish elections and the threat of slander
Jarosław Kaczyński, the Former Polish Prime Minister, current leader of the Law and Justice party and Deputy Prime Minister, called a news conference on Friday 22 September - the same day the film opened in the country - to denounce the film.
He said he believed that Poland's border guards, army and police “were portrayed shamefully."
Polish officials say security personnel have risked their lives to protect Poland from a flow of migration that they view as having been instigated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kaczyński accused Holland of “oikophobia,” an aversion to one’s own homeland, and called the film “simply shameful, repulsive and disgusting.”
He also said that the filmmaker was acting in support of Putin's alleged plan.
Poland has a national election scheduled for 15 October.
Kaczyński’s ruling Law and Justice party is trying to win a third term in power by stressing its anti-immigration policies. The government's reputation for keeping immigrants out of the country took a hit with a fraud scandal allegedly involving visas given out at Polish consulates in Asia and Africa in exchange for bribes.
Agnieszka Holland has argued that the film does not make any collective assessment of the Polish army or uniformed services, and that it is not intended to slander Poland.
She and producer Marcin Wierzchoslawski issued a statement saying the film shows that all humans, whether uniformed officers, refugees or helpers, can behave in different ways in different situations. They said it avoids “black and white propaganda” that surrounds migration.
Holland and Wierzchoslawski also said that fragments of the film were stolen, altered and broadcast by some media to create a distorted impression of the film, and that they objected to the manipulation.
In the wake of previous attacks against The Green Border, the Federation of European Screen Directors (FERA) joined several European filmmakers coming out in support of Agnieszka Holland.
The European Film Academy (EFA) also issued a statement in support Agnieszka Holland: “One of the expectations of European cinema, of which she is an outstanding representative, is to look criticality and closely at human stories, instead of looking away. Agnieszka Holland’s films are characterised by a deep humanity and respect, and she therefore deserves to be treated respectfully and humanely. It is a characteristic of significant art when cinema provokes different opinions and attitudes, when it creates the need to discuss the topics presented on a social and private level, in politics, in the media, and when speaking with family and friends.”