Four Interesting Things About The Zookeeper’s Wife

A few weeks ago, I attended a media preview for The Zookeeper’s Wife – a movie starring Jessica Chastain, based on the best-selling book by Diane Ackerman. Jessica Chastain beautifully and powerfully portrays lead character Antonina Żabińska’s courage, compassion, and heroic efforts in helping hundreds of Jewish refugees survive the Holocaust via the zoo she owned with her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński.

Here’s four interesting things about the movie:

Made by Women

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a film written and directed by women about a female heroine. Here are some key female players in the making of the film

Jessica Chastain (lead actress and executive producer)
Niki Caro (director)
Angela Workman (screenplay)
Diane Ackerman (author or book the film is based on)
Diane Miller Levin (producer)

Based on true events

Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book is based on the diaries Antonina Żabińska kept during the war. The State of Israel honored the Żabińskis as Righteous Among the Nations for their selfless actions. During WWII, they sheltered over 300 Jewish refugees and assisted them to freedom.

Jessica Chastain on working with the animals

From the phone interview we had with Jessica Chastain after the screening:

“…Even before I arrived on set…the thing I was most excited about was working with the animals.”

“…I was kissing all over that skunk and cuddling you know, in the scene.  And, there was not one animal that I felt afraid of or felt it wasn’t a good situation.”

“…you know if you don’t force your energy onto the animals then they really open up to you.”

“…When I was in Prague with the animals, I spent as much of my free time as I could with them, especially the lion cubs, the elephants for sure.”

“…it was a great joy for me…it didn’t feel like work at all but any time I had free time, I just would do whatever I could to be with the animals. “

It’s a story that celebrates life in all forms

From the phone interview we had with Jessica Chastain after the screening:

“And so there’s this like idea…I don’t think animals and people are that different.   I think sometimes in mankind we, we try to separate ourselves.  You know, different religions and countries and ethnicities and try to point to the other.  And instead, for me I love this idea of every living being, being protected and being free and being honored to live their lives in the most healthy um, compassionate way possible.  I felt that the The Zookeeper’s Wife really explored that message.”

Producer Diane Miller Levin comments:

“This story celebrates life in all forms. Diane Ackerman showed us a world where humans, animals, the spirit of all living things, are valued. Specifically, it’s about the heroism of a woman living in a time of unmitigated fear and destruction…”

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Disclaimer: I was invited as a member of the press to review this movie. I was not compensated in any way. All opinions are my own. Images and videos owned by Focus Features and used with permission. This post contains affiliate links.