7:30 PM, 17th August, 2017
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE EMBASSY OF POLAND
From the title of this film, I wondered why someone would want to tell the story of a Warsaw zoo in WWII, in view of the German-occupied city’s utter destruction during which many thousands of Poles died. However, the film is about more than the zoo animals. Zookeepers Antonina and Jan Zabinski covertly worked with the resistance to save the lives of 298 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. It ranks up there as one of the rousing stories of human courage in the face of probably the worst example of vile human bestiality ever witnessed: the Jewish Holocaust.
The plot pays much attention to trivial and fictitious domestic segments and depictions of star Chastain with her animals. However, much of the movie is filled with emotion and tension, fear and pain – with the Warsaw Ghetto scenes a spectacle of horror. The story of the people who risked their lives repeatedly throughout the war is moving and important, in and of itself.
Years later, when asked why they did what they did, Jan Zabinski answered, “I only did my duty – if you can save somebody’s life, it’s your duty to try.” If only we all could say that about ourselves.