God’s judgement more important than court’s, says Polish justice minister as director prepares to sue

Poland’s justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, says he will not withdraw his remarks likening director Agnieszka Holland to a Nazi propagandist, despite her threat to sue him. The minister says it is more important how he is judged by God than by a court.

He also revealed that he has not actually watched the film, Green Border, that prompted his criticism of Holland. The movie focuses on the migration crisis at Poland’s border with Belarus and depicts mistreatment of migrants by the Polish authorities.

“In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films showing Poles as bandits and murderers. Today they have Agnieszka Holland for that,” wrote Ziobro last week. A number of other government figures have also criticised the film, even though it will not be released until 22 September.

Director Agnieszka Holland is suing Poland’s justice minister for likening her new film – which depicts mistreatment of migrants at the Polish border – to Nazi propaganda.

The film has been praised by critics and tipped for the top prize at @la_Biennale https://t.co/WGWO8OZLW4

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 7, 2023

In an interview with TV station wPolscePL yesterday, Ziobro was asked if he was concerned about Holland’s announcement that she would sue him. The director’s lawyer said last weekend that they would give Ziobro seven days to withdraw his comments likening her work to Nazi propaganda.

“I wrote these words deliberately; that’s exactly what I think and I won’t back down from them,” said Ziobro. “I will repeat them a thousand times or more because I wrote the truth.”

“A court judgement is not the Last Judgement,” said Ziobro, referring to the Christian idea that the second coming of Christ will mark the final and eternal judgement of all humans, living and dead, by God.

“We must have the perspective of the Last Judgment before us,” continued Ziobro, pointing upwards towards the sky. “That is the most important.”

Ziobro added, however, that when he had criticised Holland, he was “referring not so much to the film itself, which of course I have not seen, but to [the director’s] interviews” in which she had discussed the situation on the border.

“Holland reduced Polish soldiers and the border guard officers to the level of criminals and sadists,” said the justice minister. “If it weren’t for the service of our brave officers, hundreds of thousands or even millions could come here from Islamic countries, often terrorists, and they would destabilise Poland and the EU.”

He also accused the director of herself likening Polish soldiers, as well as the government, to Nazis. “Can there be anything more insulting, cruel and stigmatising in Polish culture than comparing someone to a Nazi?” asked Ziobro.

Meanwhile, the interior minister, Mariusz Kamiński, told broadcaster TVP today that, although he also has not seen Green Border, “I can already say that it is an intellectually dishonest and morally shameful film…a presentation of Holland’s political views that has nothing to do with reality”.

The movie has, however, received widespread praise from critics. It last week won the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival, where it received a 15-minute standing ovation after its screening.

Film review website Rotten Tomatoes shows that reviews of Green Border from professional critics have so far been 87% positive reviews. Polish website FilmWeb shows an average rating of 7.8 out of 10 for the movie among professional critics.

Previously, users of the same website had bombarded the film with negative reviews, even though it has not yet been shown in Polish cinemas, resulting in it having an average rating of 2.3/10 from over 8,000 reviews. Filmweb therefore decided to hide the ratings of people who had not yet seen the film.

Agnieszka’s Holland’s „Green Border” has won the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival.

The film, which depicts mistreatment of migrants by Poland, has angered the government, with one minister likening it to Nazi propaganda.

See our report: https://t.co/jC1dJgYdqs pic.twitter.com/CNhIlWeChs

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 10, 2023

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Main image credits: P. Tracz/KPRM (under public domain) and Martin Kraft/Wikimedia Commons (under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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