Polish director to sue government over Syrian refugee film comments
Polish director Agnieszka Holland announced on 6 September that she would sue Poland's justice minister after he likened her newest film about the migration crisis on the border with Belarus to Nazi propaganda.
Holland's film, "The Green Border", is a fictionalised version of a Syrian family's journey to cross into Poland from Belarus.
It specifically takes aim at the mistreatment migrants have faced at the Polish-Belarusian border, a hot spot for migrants seeking a better way of life in Europe.
The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and has garnered positive reviews for depicting the challenges facing refugees attempting to enter the European Union.
In an interview, Polish justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro said that Holland's work "is part of Russian propaganda" and compared it to anti-Polish Nazi propaganda.
"In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films showing poles as bandits and murders. Today they have Agnieszka Holland for that," Ziobro tweeted on 4 September.
In response to the minister's comments, Holland announced that she would file defamation charges unless the minister apologised and donated over US$11,500 to charity.
"In our country, which experienced death, cruelty and suffering of millions during World War II, comparison to the perpetrators is extremely painful and requires an appropriate response," Holland said.
She further noted that she is the granddaughter of Holocaust victims.
The UN has criticised Poland for its pushback of migrants across the border with Belarus, contrasting the country's poor treatment of migrants from the Middle East and Africa and its welcoming of Ukrainian migrants.
In the fall of 2021, the migrant crisis on the Polish border reached a breaking point, as refugees were stuck between Belarus and Poland. Several migrants froze to death in the harsh conditions.
Most of the migrants were from Iraq and other countries in the Middle East and Africa. Poland has accused Belarus of "weaponising" the migrant flow against it.
Since then, Poland has increasingly fortified its border with Belarus, building a wall and installing electronic surveillance equipment.
Poland is heading into an election on 15 October, in which migration has emerged as a central issue. The ruling Law and Justice party has pledged to stem the flow of migrants into the country.
Also appearing on the ballot will be a referendum which asks voters if they "support the admission of thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa."
Holland said in a statement that her film was meant to shine a light on what she called "government propaganda" about the migration crisis.
"People who are afraid – as the Minister of Justice knows perfectly well – are much easier to govern. That's why I decided to give my voice to the other side as well," Holland said.