11 items from 2017
Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, recognized as one of the premier film schools in the United States, will focus on Hollywood directors with the theme ‘In the Director’s Chair’ at the 18th Annual Women in Focus Conference.
The Women in Focus Conference will feature Academy Award®-nominated director Niki Caro (“The Zookeeper’s Wife”, “Whale Rider”, “North Country”); acclaimed director Sydney Freeland (“Deidra & Laney Rob a Train”, “Drunktown’s Finest”, “Her Story”); award-winning screenwriter and film director, Kelly Fremon Craig (“The Edge of Seventeen”, “Post Grad”, “Streak”); critically-acclaimed director, Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”, “The Twilight Saga”, “Thirteen”); and the first female Saudi Arabian filmmaker, Haifaa Al-Mansour (“Mary Shelley”, “Wadjda”).
- Sydney Levine
“The Boss Baby” (20th Century Fox) and “Ghost in the Shell” (Paramount), two films from different DreamWorks divisions, make their debuts Friday in what will be a close race for second behind the Disney steamroller that is “Beauty and the Beast.”
After opening to $175 million, this live-action redo of Disney’s 1991 animated classic continued to stun by dropping just under 50 percent in its second weekend, to $90 million. A similar fall would put Bill Condon’s musical at $45 million weekend, which will be plenty to keep it atop the Top Ten.
This weekend’s revenues could push “Beauty” to $400 million in only 17 days. That achievement would place it right behind the two latest “Star Wars” films, “The Avengers” and “Jurassic World,” all of which had the advantage of vacation or holiday playtime.
- Tom Brueggemann
The Zookeeper's Wife is deeply emotional and visceral, but fails to reach the bar set by better examples of the genre. Adapted for the screen by acclaimed director Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country), the film has tour-de-force performances from Jessica Chastain and Belgian actor Johan Heldenbergh. It is the remarkable true story of a Polish couple's courage during World War II. Told from a female perspective, the drama showcases the immense horror and degradation that women suffer during conflict.
Set in the summer of 1939 Warsaw, Antonina (Chastain) and Jan (Heldenbergh) Zabinski run a delightful zoo at the center of the city. They have a young son, Ryszard (Timothy Radford, Val Moluku), who helps them care for the animals. The family has a peaceful, idyllic existence with their beloved creatures. Antonina has a natural aptitude with them, impressing everyone with her skill and glamorous beauty. These traits are not unnoticed by the zoo's primary benefactor, »
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” tells the powerful story of Antonina Zabinski, a woman who risked her life to save the lives of 300 Jews during World War II. Based on a book by Diane Ackerman, the film is coming to screens later this month via a screenplay penned by Angela Workman. Niki Caro (“Whale Rider,” “North Country”) directs and Jessica Chastain (“Miss Sloane”) plays Zabinski, who ran the Warsaw Zoo with her husband during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. She also saved hundreds of innocent people who became refugees overnight.
In an interview with Chastain and Caro during the publicity tour for the film, Chastain spoke very highly of the experience of playing a heroine who saved so many lives. She is not new to playing heroic figures, having also portrayed fierce women in films such as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Martian.”
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” production team. Photo courtesy of Westwood.
When offered the role, Chastain said she first met with Caro in Milan, and was immediately impressed. “I was excited to meet Niki because I so love her film work. I can’t imagine anyone else directing this movie. Antonina once said that when you look into an animal’s eyes, you see exactly what’s in their heart. Niki is like that. She’s so authentic, and truthful, and honest,” she observed.
The subject of strong women is one that Chastain knows very well. “I was raised by a single woman. My grandmother raised her family, and my mother raised three kids. I am where I am today because of the sacrifices they made. It wasn’t hard for me to find examples of a woman who — not sacrifices herself, but in a way, gives of — gives herself to others.”
She added, “I want to celebrate women in the past who have made great sacrifices to help others. We don’t acknowledge women in history as often as we should.”
When asked about bringing a Holocaust film to fruition, Caro said, “I had to think very hard about what I could bring to this genre. I recognized that it was femininity. I could take my inspiration from Antonina and be very soft and strong with this material. I was trying to move the genre on a little bit,” she explained. “I wanted to make a Holocaust movie that expressed healing in some measure. I thought we were making a historical drama. It’s only now that I realize we were making a contemporary film — sadly.”
In the film, Chastain rotates between a range of emotions as a mother, wife, hero, zoologist, and temptress to Lutz (Daniel Brühl), a Nazi soldier who protected the couple, in part because of his respect for their accomplishments in building a world-renowned zoo, and in part because of a crush on Antonina.
To research her character, she first read Ackerman’s book where she culled much information about the character. “There was a quality that she had, where she would not disappear, but she would put the caring of others ahead of herself. For her, it was all about others — animals, people, or whatever it was, in terms of healing.” She also met with a lot of people who spend their lives dedicated to animals, which was helpful when approaching her role as a zoologist.
From there she went to Warsaw and on to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp. About her visit to the camp, she said. “Antonina wouldn’t have known what was happening there, but I needed to feel the energy of that space.”
There are other pivotal female roles in the film. Shira Haas, an Israeli actress, plays a young Jewish girl called Urszula who Caro says was emblematic of all children during the war. When we first see her, she is being escorted to a secluded part of the ghetto by two Nazi soldiers. After taking sight of her, Antonina’s husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), rescues her and brings her to the zoo. Caro talked about the scenes between she and Antonina. “They were wonderful, because we see Antonina dealing with Urszula as she would with an animal when she first arrives,” she observed. “It’s her humanity with animals that brought to her work with human refugees. I think that sort of unspoken trust and compassion between those two characters, and those two actresses, is a very, very special part of the movie, for me. It was incredibly organic.”
“I was distraught about the rape of this young girl,” Chastain said, “but I’m happy to be in a movie where there’s no salacious rape scene that we’re forced to watch. It was wonderful to work with a director who had more delicacy and sensitivity with the subject.”
At the end of the film, Antonina comes face to face with Lutz in a scene where he contemplates killing her son and places her in a cage, where not only her animals were living before the war, but also the Jewish prisoners that she saved. “It was Niki’s idea to do that,” Chastain recalled. “The trick was to just get it out of my mind that everything would be okay. I had to tell Lutz that he was a good person and could not be capable of murdering a child. That’s why the moment is so shocking to the viewer. It was even to me while shooting it.”
The experience of making the film has made Chastain think differently about her life. “There are so many questions in my mind of how this could have happened. How could an entire country have done this? Many people were ordinary people who just got swayed by power. I can’t help but think how important this film is today,” she said. “I remember being in school and reading the Anne Frank diary. We know that she was denied a visa into the United States. My teacher didn’t tell us that the reason she died was because the United States wouldn’t let her in.”
“This is a very, very emotional and important film for me,” Chastain reflected.
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” opens nationally March 31.
Jessica Chastain and Niki Caro on “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and the Importance of Recognizing Women in… was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Holly Rosen Fink
It might not be surprising that Jessica Chastaine’s upcoming Holocaust drama The Zookeeper’s Wife was directed by a woman as much as it was directed by New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro, who once again proves herself capable of working with an international cast on a scale that’s far bigger than her earlier films, including Whale Rider.
Adapted from the novel by Diane Ackerman, it stars Chastaine as Antonina Zabinska, wife of the zoologist and owner of the biggest zoo in Warsaw, Poland, which is devastated when the Nazis invade in 1939. Trying to make lemonade out of the lemons delivered to them by the Nazis liquidating their zoo, Antonina and her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) come up with a plan to save the Jews from Warsaw who are being herded into ghettos, and being treated horribly. Turning the zoo into a pig farm, the couple begin to sneak »
- Edward Douglas
Nazis, zoo animals and a remarkable true and uplifting story of one woman’s courage and resistance in sheltering 300 Polish Jews during World War II combine for a powerful, riveting and emotionally devastating film The Zookeeper’s Wife, which chronicles yet another little-known aspect of that momentous time. As I say in my video review above, director Niki Caro (Whale Rider, McFarland USA, North Country) and screenwriter Angela Workman have crafted an inspiring and… »
Two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain stars in The Zookeeper’S Wife in the title role of Antonina Żabińska, a real-life working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during WWII. Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) directs the movie from a screenplay by Angela Workman, adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name which was based on Antonina’s diaries.
The time is 1939. The place is Poland, homeland of Antonina (portrayed by Ms. Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh, of The Broken Circle Breakdown). Devoted to each other, the couple thrive as personal and professional partners; the Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. With reserves of energy, Antonina rises every day to tend to both her family and their menagerie, as the gates to the majestic zoo open in welcome…
…until the »
- Movie Geeks
World War II saw no shortage of ordinary people committing compassionate, courageous acts to help those fleeing the Nazis, and in the upcoming “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” another remarkable true story is brought to life. And we have an exclusive clip from the film.
Directed by Niki Caro (“Whale Rider,” “North Country,” “McFarland“) and starring Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh and Daniel Brühl, the story takes place in 1939 Poland, where Antonina Żabińska and her husband, Dr.
Continue reading Exclusive: Jessica Chastain Faces A Tough Decision In Clip From ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ at The Playlist. »
- Kevin Jagernauth
Charlize Theron remembers her first Oscar nomination like it was yesterday.
Speaking with ABC on the red carpet ahead of Sunday evening’s Academy Awards, the actress recalled what she was feeling the first time she was nominated.
“I was freaking out,” said Theron, 41. “I was shivering and shaking and sweating and had all different things happening to my body. It was weird.”
But while she was nervous, she’s hopeful »
- Natalie Stone
One of many upcoming live-action Disney remakes has just found its director, as The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Niki Caro will helm 2018’s Mulan. In so doing, Caro will make history, becoming only the second woman in the studio’s history (and third in all) to direct a film with a budget over $100 million.
Reportedly, Disney saw it as important to hire a female for the job and looked at such other candidates as Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) and Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad). Caro’s hiring likely means that she’s out of the running for another major studio tentpole, Captain Marvel, which will be the first female-led superhero movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Caro’s name was previously on a shortlist alongside Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland) and Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World).
Since delivering a critical and moderate commercial hit for Disney with McFarland, »
- Justin Cook
The saga of the dueling live-action Mulan movies has taken another step forward, with Variety reporting that Disney’s version of the classic Chinese tale has tapped Niki Caro to direct. Caro—who’s also apparently on the list of directors the company’s eyeing for its upcoming Captain Marvel movie—is best known for her 2002 coming-of-age story Whale Rider.
Taking on a job that was initially offered to Ang Lee, Caro will be facing off against Sony’s version of the story of legendary, secretly female Chinese soldier Hua Mulan. That film is being directed by Game Of Thrones’ Alex Graves, and will allegedly be much more of a war movie; it’ll be interesting to see how Graves’ bloody style contrasts with Caro’s, whose other recent projects include North Country and McFarland, USA. Disney’s Mulan is expected to hit theaters on November 2, 2018.
- William Hughes
11 items from 2017
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