‘Making this film was forbidden’: how Agnieszka Holland’s migrant thriller inflamed the Polish right

The director has long explored the darkest corners of European life. Now her latest drama Green Border has caused outrage in her homeland – and become an unlikely box office hit

Director Agnieszka Holland is accustomed to attacks from the right in Poland, but her latest film, Green Border – about the plight of immigrants on the country’s borders – took things to another level. No sooner had it premiered at last year’s Venice film festival, where it won the special jury prize, than the justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, took to social media, comparing it to Nazi propaganda. President Andrzej Duda doubled down, resurrecting a second world war slogan about the gullibility of filmgoers: “Only pigs sit in cinemas.”

The film that caused all the fuss is an uncompromising work of conscience, set in a no man’s land between Poland and Belarus, where refugees, largely from the Middle East and Africa, have for the last three years become pawns in a geopolitical standoff between the European Union and a Russian ally intent on destabilising it. In stark black and white, Green Border shows families being bundled back and forth through the barbed-wire fences, left to freeze and starve and – in one shocking scene – drown in the mud of one of Europe’s last primeval forests.

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