Jessica Chastain, animal whisperer.

The Oscar-nominated actress definitely has a way with lion cubs, zebras and all manner of critters in “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” It opens March 31 but will screen at 7 p.m. Saturday at AMC River East as part of the JCC Chicago Film Festival (

“The Zoopkeeper’s Wife” is based on Diane Ackerman’s 2007 book about Antonina and Jan Zabinski’s real-life efforts to save Jews in Poland during World War II.

“There wasn’t a creature on that set, human or animal, that she couldn’t mesmerize,” director Niki Caro (“Whale Rider) says of Chastain. “It was a wonderful experience.”