Of Animals and Men is a brief documentary and goes into the true story behind the Warsaw Zoo and what we saw in The Zookeeper’s Wife.
I said it before upon reviewing The Zookeeper’s Wife the other day but Dr. Jan Żabiński and Antonina Żabińska were named to the Righteous Among the Nations. That they would risk their own lives in an effort to save some 300 Jews in Poland during the Shoah speaks to their humanity. The film draws on Antonina Żabińska’s diaries with regards to the voiceover. Their daughter, Teresa, appears in an on-screen interview as do a few survivors. Photos and archival video from before the war, during the Shoah, and shortly thereafter also appear in the film. The film also offers some reenactments featuring the animals so audiences have an idea of what things looked like during the war.
Their daughter, Teresa Żabińska, recounts what it was like to grow up surrounded by animals. It wasn’t uncommon to have animals roaming around their villa. Unfortunately, she passed away earlier in 2021. First-hand witness testimony from survivor Moshe Tirosh speaks to the family’s righteousness and kindness.
If you’ve seen the film starring Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh, you should be familiar with the events already. This doc, albeit short at just over an hour, shows things without the Hollywood touch that got added on during the 2017 film. For instance, many things had to be recreated on a soundstage or shot elsewhere for The Zookeeper’s Wife.
Despite press materials saying that the film would feature an English voiceover, the screener I watched featured a Polish voiceover. I’m wondering of the Fathom Events screening in June featured an English voiceover. The film itself is 70 minutes long but there’s another 12 minutes of bonus footage.
Of Animals and Men may not be a long film but adds on to The Zookeeper’s Wife.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Łukasz Czajka
FEATURING: Teresa Żabińska, Moshe Tirosh, Dr. Jan Żabiński, Antonina Żabińska