The Clergy (Polish title Kler), the latest offering from director Wojciech Smarzowski, premiered to a full house at the Polish Film Festival in the coastal city of Gdynia on Tuesday, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.
While some hailed it as “compelling,” "stunning" and “a great, important movie,” others said the film offered a skewed image of priesthood and Catholicism, according to reports.
The Clergy tells the story of three priests, including one living in a relationship with a woman and another accused by his parishioners of being a paedophile.
The film also depicts an archbishop who lives a life of luxury, is well connected in the corridors of power and has a direct influence on domestic politics.
A press conference after the film's maiden screening was rife with comments about alleged abusive practices among some clergymen, including reports of paedophilia and attempts to hush it up within the Church, PAP reported.
However, those critical of the new film, including some conservative politicians, have said it was biased and dwelled on hackneyed stereotypes.
Poland’s Deputy Culture Minister Jarosław Sellin has described The Clergy as a film harming the Roman Catholic Church and "only showing negative stereotypes overstated to the extent that after watching the movie, the viewer gets the impression that there is nothing positive about clergymen,” PAP reported.
“The film is harmful; it doesn’t tell the truth," Sellin told broadcaster WP TV on Monday, according to PAP.
Meanwhile, conservative MP Adam Andruszkiewicz has said on Twitter that various media in Poland have launched a massive attack on the Church, trying to tell the public that all priests are paedophiles.
"I have the impression that this is a deliberate campaign aiming to denigrate faith in Poland,” Andruszkiewicz tweeted.
“We need to react, showing the magnitude of the good that is in evidence within the Church,” he added.
The makers of The Clergy say their production is inspired by the biblical message "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
The film, which features a cast of leading Polish actors, is vying for the top Golden Lions award at the 43rd Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, alongside productions such as Małgorzata Szumowska’s Mug (Twarz) and Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War (Zimna Wojna).
The Clergy is scheduled to hit movie theatres in Poland on September 28.
About 93 percent of Poles declare themselves to be Catholics, according to the country's Catholic Church Statistics Institute.