Caro film with Chastain premieres in Poland

Kiwi film director Niki Caro, left and Hollywood star Jessica Chastain during a press conference for The Zookeeper's Wife. Photo / AP
Kiwi film director Niki Caro, left and Hollywood star Jessica Chastain during a press conference for The Zookeeper's Wife. Photo / AP

Hollywood actress Jessica Chastain and the Kiwi director of her new movie, are celebrating both the strength and the tenderness of women.

Chastain, New Zealand director Niki Caro, and other actors were in Warsaw today for a gala screening of the movie The Zookeeper's Wife.

It tells the real-life story of the World War II director of the Warsaw zoo, Jan Zabinski, and of his wife Antonina, who jointly saved up to 300 Jews, hiding them in their home on the zoo grounds and in animal enclosures, risking their own lives and those of their two children.

Shot in Prague, Czech Republic, the movie opens in theatres on March 31.

Two-time Academy Award nominee Chastain, who plays Antonina Zabinska, told a news conference she felt "so inspired" by the story of human kindness "that we need so much today".

She said it was exciting to play how Antonina, initially unsure of herself, "is left alone at the house and given all this responsibility for caring for all these people and to protect them she grows into herself," until by the end of the movie she is an equal with her husband.

The nicest part, however, was working with the animals.

With a female elephant they had a "little game with apples".

"I would hide the apples round the set and she, with the trunk would come over and try to find the apples on me," Chastain said. "That was the best part, playing the games with the animals."

Caro said the movie turned out to be a very contemporary one, with an important message to everyone.

The Zabinskis did the "right thing," which she found very inspiring, to "act, to stand up, to act out of the highest vision of ourselves".

She said she would like to see more female heroes who are genuinely feminine and complex, rather than "Lara Croft guy-characters with sexy bodies".

Both women said they will take part in a march to mark International Women's Day in Warsaw tomorrow. Actors Daniel Bruhl and Johan Heldenbergh, who also star in the movie, said they will join them.

Earlier in the day the crew visited the Zabinskis' villa. A gala screening preceded by a red-carpet ceremony is to take place at a cinema at Warsaw's landmark Palace of Culture and Science.

The movie is based on a book by American author Diane Ackerman, published in 2007, which revealed the story to the world.

-AP

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