WARSAW, Poland — A leading member of Poland’s conservative government has sharply criticized a film premiering at the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday that explores the humanitarian disaster affecting migrants along the border between Poland and Belarus.
“Green Border,” by Polish director Agnieszka Holland, puts a spotlight on the refugee crisis that emerged two years ago at Belarus’ borders with the European Union nations of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The film is in competition at the festival.
Poland’s hard-right justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, slammed the film, comparing it to Nazi propaganda.
“In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films showing Poles as bandits and murderers. Today they have Agnieszka Holland for that,” Ziobro wrote Monday on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter.
According to the film festival’s description, the feature film dramatizes the tragedy that has played out in this “green border” of swamps and forests in a story showing the intertwining lives of a Polish activist, a young Polish border guard and a Syrian family.
Holland has been a critic of the Polish government‘s hard-line treatment of refugees and migrants, a viewpoint reflected in the film.
In 2021, the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, lured migrants from the Middle East and Africa to Belarus with flights and visas, and directed them toward European Union countries. Belarusian guards in some cases pushed them across the border.
Poland accused Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of seeking to sow discord in the region. In many cases Polish border guards pushed the migrants back or refused to allow them to apply for asylum. In the summer of 2021, migrants became stranded in the no-man’s land between Poland and Belarus where they were denied humanitarian and medical help.
Activists have reported the deaths of dozens of migrants in the border zone.
“I understood that a training camp of cruelty was being established on the border. In my opinion, it was a purely political decision,” Holland said in a recent interview with Polish Newsweek in which she accuses populist politicians in Poland and elsewhere of seeking to win political points with what she described as a short-sighted and inhumane approach to migration.
The film is being released in Poland on Sept. 22.
Holland has been among the liberal Poles who have condemned Polish authorities for their treatment of the migrants. The critics argue that even though Belarus was guilty of using the migrants as pawns in a cynical geopolitical game, a democracy like Poland should have treated them in line with international law by allowing them to apply for asylum.
Polish authorities have accused its critics and the Polish activists who mobilized to help the migrants of harming Poland’s interests.