'Animal whisperer' Jessica Chastain premieres new film

LOS ANGELES: Jessica Chastain is "a genuine animal whisperer", the film's director said at the premiere of "The Zookeeper's Wife".

Set at the start of World War Two, the movie tells the true story of Antonina Zabinski, who used the zoo she owned with her husband in Warsaw to smuggle 300 Jews out of the Nazi-occupied city.

The role required Chastain to work closely with animals, much to her delight.

"I'm in love with animals. I love them so much. When I was reading Antonina's writings...I was so moved by her connection to animals", Chastain said.

Director Niki Caro affirmed this, saying, "The spooky other-worldly bonds between...Jessica and any given creature, was just wonderful, wonderful to behold and a real privilege to shoot".

The biographical drama directed and written by women depicts a different type of heroism, according to Diane Ackerman, who wrote the novel of the same name.

"This isn't the sort of shoot-em-up heroism. She didn't kill anyone, Antonina, but her life was in danger every single second. It's simply that she was risking her life to make sure that the people that were in her care survived, and survived with their humanity intact", Ackerman said.

Belgian actor Johan Heldenbergh, who plays Zabinski's husband Jan, pointed out the relevance of "The Zookeeper's Wife" in today's world.

"Any story that can give a message - 'Look here, humanity, be careful, please, but this could happen' - is worth telling", he said.

"The Zookeeper's Wife" goes on release in the US on March 31.