Polish Cinema: Zlota (Tomasz Knittel, 2019, Poland/Denmark)

Tomasz Knittel’s Zlota is a sensitive and well-crafted documentary exploring – among other subjects – reprivatization, restitution, and emigration in modern Poland. Through the course of illuminating interviews with several tenants of an apartment building in Warsaw – a retired accountant who lived through WWII, an Afghani man with a Ukrainian wife, a Syrian refugee – Knittel pieces together a nuanced view of the country. The film is anchored together by two protagonists – Krzysztof and his wife Ida. Krzysztof learned of his Jewish ancestry later on in life, and manages the family’s apartment complex – restituted to him during reprivatization.
Throughout the film, we see Krzysztof express consistently negative feelings toward Poland – in his mind, a “cursed” place. He longs to emigrate to Western Europe – in particular Denmark – where he believes people are more tolerant and smiling, as opposed to aggressive and narrow-minded Poles. His view of Poland contrasts significantly with his Afghani tenant, who expresses strong satisfaction with life and Poland and even views the country as an ideal home for Muslims, with its strong focus on family values and tradition. By contrast, a Syrian refugee who has lived in the country for 5 years seems to find his position in the country much more precarious.
The external socio-cultural discussions – including a conversation about the third-generation of Polish Jews living in Poland – form the outer layer of Knittel’s film. At the core is the story of the relationship between Krzysztof and Ida. Ida – who has sacrificed several years of her life to managing the property – seems deeply dissatisfied. She is at odds with Krzysztof, as he wants to leave and she doesn’t want to leave. In the background of this domestic turmoil is the question of whether the apartment will even remain in their hands, as it is possible the government will reclaim it from them.



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