Agnieszka Holland’s migrant crisis drama Green Border has achieved the best opening weekend in Poland for a Polish film in 2023 in spite of a fierce political backlash from the country’s right-wing government.
The picture’s Polish distributor Kino Świat said on Monday that the film, which launched theatrically on September 2022, had drawn 137,000 spectators on its opening weekend which is the best result for a Polish film this year.
The drama, which explores the mistreatment of migrants along Poland’s thickly forested border with Belarus on both sides, has been subjected to a vitriolic political backlash and online hate campaign since its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize.
The film has hit a particularly raw nerve with Poland’s ruling right-wing, anti-immigrant coalition government, led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, for its scenes showing Polish border guards pushing vulnerable people back over the border into Belarus.
Inflammatory remarks by leading politicians in the coalition have fuelled an online hate campaign against Holland and also encouraged physical protests outside cinemas showing the film by neofascists groups.
Polish exhibitor María Magdalena Gierat told an industry panel at the San Sebastian Film Festival on Sunday that her Kino Pod Baranami theatre was among cinemas that had been targeted by right-wing protestors.
She said, however, that the backlash had encouraged rather than deterred people from going to see the film.
Talking about the latest box office figures out of Poland, Green Border executive producer Mike Downey said the Polish launch was the first step in wider a distribution plan.
“This marks the beginning of our campaign to bring the message of Green Border to the rest of the world,” he said. “The whitewashing by the Polish government and their active attempts to sweep the migrant issue under the carpet via censorship and disinformation can never bar the road to the truth.”
“This is a fact that will be apparent to all people who see the film across the world. Atrocities are being perpetrated on the weak and defenceless by a brutal regime, and this in the heart of Europe. We must make our voices heard. People are voting with their feet with the biggest box office opening for a Polish film this year so far.”