Out in theaters across the country on March 31, The Zookeeper's Wife is a heartwrenching World War II story about two zoo owners, Antonina Zabinski and her husband Dr. Jan Zabinski, who managed to save over 300 Jews during the Holocaust by hiding them within animal cages. Based on a true story, the film, directed by Niki Caro, captures the most intense moments of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1939. Because the topic is incredibly dark and intense, here are a few things you need to know before you see this film.
1. The film is based on a true story
The film, staring Jessica Chastain, is based on the best-selling novel The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman. By using extensive research and interviews with people who knew Antonina, Ackerman wrote a true account of the Warsaw Zoo and how exactly the female heroine stood up to the Nazis. Along with having this strong protagonist, the film is also the fourth woman-directed movie of 2017.
The Zookeeper's Wife directed by Niki Caro is the 4th movie directed by a woman to go into wide release in 2017. pic.twitter.com/f98Uj1N2X7
— Women Film Directors (@women_direct) March 31, 2017
2. History of the Warsaw Ghetto
During the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. It's where many people went in Poland before being shipped to death camps. On October 12, 1940, the Germans established the ghetto, forcing all the Jews to wear yellow Star of David badges and move out of their homes. At the time, Warsaw had one of the largest Jewish populations in the world; it's estimated that over 400,000 Jews lived within the ghetto, with an average of 7.2 people per room. In the ghetto, disease spread very quickly and there was not enough food for everyone, so the mortality rate was extremely high.
3. Righteous of the Nations
According to Yad Vashem, a Holocaust museum in Israel, Jan and Antonina Zabinski were recognized on September 21, 1965, as Righteous Among the Nations. This is an honor used by the State of Israel to recognize non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from the Nazis.
4. Intense/graphic content
As the film largely takes place at the Warsaw Zoo, which was bombed by the SS during the war, it's important to note that there are extremely graphic scenes involving animal deaths.
The Zookeeper's Wife tells a story of strength and courage during a time when those traits were hard to come by. If you're looking for a film that will both inspire you and make you cry, this is the right choice.
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