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Documentary Releases: Of Animals and Men (2019) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 205 days ago on Entertainment

http://www.spoilerfreemoviesleuth.com - Courtesy of Sonovision Films Before Niki Caro took on remaking Disney’s Mulan, she brought Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book The Zookeeper’s Wife to the big screen in 2017.  Starring Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh, it told the true story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński, two Polish zoologists who ran the world famous Warsaw Zoo and received recognition for their rescue and shelter of Polish Jews during the Holocaust in Poland within the safe confines of the zoo grounds.   Though it was the first time their life story had been dramatized onscreen, years prior the book attracted the attention of Polish documentary filmmaker Lukasz Czajka who decided a real portrait of the heroic couple was long overdue and spent four years searching for and interviewing the last remaining survivors who knew the Żabińskis personally.Courtesy of Sonovision Films In limited release through Sonovision Films and Fathom Events, the Polish documentary (dubbed in English) Of Animals and Men, seeks to tell the complete story from top to bottom.  Comprised almost primarily of silent black-and-white archival footage on the Warsaw Zoo grounds with firsthand footage of the Żabińskis as well as the eventual Nazi invasion and told through voiceover narration intercut with modern interviews of the survivors, the film is a tapestry of preexisting and newly shot footage.  To the filmmakers’ credit, extra lengths were gone to find remaining zoo grounds that were unaltered by renovations, giving viewers a glimpse into what the 300 Polish Jews in hiding might have experienced.   Following the documentary was a shorter but no less thorough interview with the director going over how he embarked on the project followed by scenes of daughter Teresa Żabiński which were left on the cutting room floor, rounding out the package to a little over two hours.  While I might have preferred an undubbed subtitled version of the documentary, that we got such a comprehensive and complete picture of these extraordinary people free of the constraints of Hollywood melodramatic dramatization is a minor cause for celebration. Courtesy of Sonovision Films For Lukasz Czajka and his first feature documentary film, the filmmaking isn’t necessarily brilliant but the interviews with the last surviving Żabiński member are invaluable and that alone makes this a must-see documentary film which will hopefully become more widely available whenever it makes the jump to streaming.  A good companion piece to The Zookeeper’s Wife which is also well worth seeing! --Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//www.zergnet.com/zerg.js?id=59239'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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