The Zookeeper’s Wife is set in Poland in 1939, immediately after the Nazi invasion. A married couple, who are the zookeepers of the Warsaw Zoo, begin a kind of underground railway for escaping Jews, using the zoo to hide them.
Jessica Chastain stars as Antonina Żabińska, who with her husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) undertakes the dangerous effort to save Jews from the Nazi war machine. Niki Caro directs.
The official synopsis is, “the real-life story of one working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during World War II. In 1939 Poland, Antonina Żabińska and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński , have the Warsaw Zoo flourishing under his stewardship and her care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are stunned — and forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl). To fight back on their own terms, Antonina and Jan covertly begin working with the Resistance — and put into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and even her children at great risk.”
You may recall Jessica Chastain writing an essay in The Hollywood Reporter about a year ago. She talked about working on The Zookeepers Wife and said, “I’ve never been on a set with so many women. We’re not even 50 percent of the crew — we’re probably something like 20 percent women and 80 percent men — but it’s way more than I’ve ever worked with on a film before. There are female producers (Diane Levin, Kim Zubick and Katie McNeill), a female screenwriter (Angela Workman), a female novelist (Diane Ackerman), a female protagonist and a female director. I’ve never seen a female camera operator like Rachael Levine on one of my films. And I’ve never, ever seen a female stunt coordinator like Antje “Angie” Rau.” She went on to talk about how much she enjoyed working with so many women, the feeling of community and cooperation, and her hopes for more films like this one.
Speaking as a fan, I have hopes for more films like this one, too, and with more than 20 percent women on the set.
The Zookeeper’s Wife will be released in U.S. theaters on March 31, 2017.
The film is based on the excellent book The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman.
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