Czech Film Academy Supports Agnieszka Holland Following Polish Government’s Criticism
The film recalls the dramatic fate of refugees on the Polish-Belarusian border trying to reach the European Union. Credit: labiennale.org.
Prague, Sept 26 (CTK) – The Czech Film and Television Academy (CFTA) yesterday expressed its support for Polish director Agnieszka Holland, who has been heavily criticised by members of Poland’s nationalist government for her latest film, The Green Border, about the desperate situation of refugees on the Polish-Belarusian border.
The film, which won an award at the Venice Film Festival this year, was co-produced by a Czech production company and Czech Television, and financially supported by the Czech Film Fund.
The criticism of the director has resulted in personal threats of physical violence against her, forcing her to pay for security protection while in Poland.
Polish Justice Minister and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro previously strongly attacked the film, comparing it to “Nazi propaganda”.
Speaking to reporters in New York, Polish President Andrzej Duda quoted the slogan “Only pigs sit in cinemas” in reference to the film.
Ahead of the Polish premiere last Friday, the film, which recalls the dramatic fate of refugees on the Polish-Belarusian border trying to reach the European Union in search of a better life, was also criticised by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Vice Prime Minister and leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
At a press conference, Kaczynski claimed that “on a political level” the film was preparing grounds for the destruction of the fence on the Polish-Belarusian border and the redistribution of migrants in the European Union, and that it depicted the defence of the Polish border as “one big crime”.
He also described supporters of the film as advocates of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. “Anyone who does not condemn this film finds themselves on the anti-Polish side,” he said.
Holland defended herself against the attacks, saying they reminded her of McCarthyism and the Stalinist era. The film does not make a general assessment of the police or border guards, she said, but is about how individuals can behave very differently in the same situation.
“We would like to express our support for Agnieszka Holland, whose film work has been speaking out against hatred for several decades, exposing the roots of evil in society, fighting for the ideals of humanism, for interpersonal empathy and freedom, and opening up often painful social issues,” said the CFTA leadership. “One of the important tasks of cinema is to speak up freely about social events, often critically and uncomfortably.”
“As the CFTA, we condemn this behaviour and consider it absolutely unacceptable. We call for an immediate end to the campaign of disparagement and insults against Agnieszka Holland. This is a dangerous attack not only against her person, but against free artistic expression, which is one of the pillars of European culture and a means of social dialogue,” the Academy said, condemning the Polish officials’ sharp criticism of Holland.
The Green Border follows psychologist Julia, who becomes an involuntary witness and participant in dramatic events on the Polish-Belarusian border and decides to give up her comfortable life and join a group of activists who provide aid to refugees. Her fate is then connected with a Syrian family fleeing the civil war along with a female teacher from Afghanistan, who are forcibly taken to a refugee camp near the Polish border, and with a young border guard.
Talking to journalists before his departure for Romania yesterday, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky (Pirates) commended the Czech filmmakers who had stood up for Holland.
“I think that artists should be able to express their opinion as long as it is within the framework of the valid laws. I do not think that the film transgresses the valid laws, even if it expresses an opinion that some people may not like,” he said.
“At the same time, I would like to see the criticism that comes back in reaction also to have a certain [acceptable] form,” Lipavsky added.