Polish ruling party condemns critical film as migration dominates election campaign

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s ruling party has condemned a new film criticising the country’s rejection of migrants from the Middle East and Africa and challenged the opposition to follow suit, as campaigning for October’s election focuses increasingly on migration.

“Green Border”, directed by veteran Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, has drawn a furious response from conservatives in Poland ahead of its release in Polish cinemas on Friday, who say its depiction of Polish officials’ treatment of migrants dishonours those who were protecting their country.

With Poland’s Oct. 15 elections just weeks away and the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party facing an electoral challenge from the far-right, PiS is taking a tough stance and has urged the European Union to close its borders, while accusing the opposition of being soft on illegal migration.

Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak on Wednesday called on Donald Tusk, the leader of the largest opposition grouping Civic Coalition (KO), and Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski to apologise to soldiers, saying that Holland was linked to the opposition.

Holland appeared at an opposition event organised by Trzaskowski in August.

“Mr Tusk and Mr Trzaskowski – you have a moral obligation to apologise to Polish soldiers and officers for everything Ms Holland is guilty of through her film,” Blaszczak told reporters at a conference next to the fence the Polish government has put up on its eastern border with Belarus.

The leader of a grass roots group supporting servicemen and women, Brigadier General pilot Dariusz Wronski, said soldiers were really outraged by the film, which he said showed them as drunks and thugs.

Holland declined to comment. A KO spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Holland has previously rejected criticism of the film by PiS, saying that it is “an attempt to give voice to those who are voiceless”.

“Green Border” tells the story of refugees, charity workers, activists and border guards, whose lives intersect in the cold, swampy forests between Poland and Belarus.

Migrants started flocking to the border in 2021, after Belarus, a close Russian ally, opened travel agencies in the Middle East offering a new unofficial route into Europe – a move the European Union said was designed to create a crisis.

Poland refused to let them cross, leaving hundreds stranded in a freezing no-man’s land.

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has compared the film to Nazi propaganda. Holland demanded an apology, saying she would take Ziobro to court if she did not receive one.

The government is facing opposition accusations that it was complicit in a system in which migrants received visas at an accelerated pace without proper checks after paying intermediaries.

PiS said the opposition had exaggerated the extent of the issue.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz)