Directed by Ralph Ziman • Drama • With Sam Neill • 2002 • 108 minutes
Eastern Europe - a city ravished by civil war. Jonah Ludovic (Sam Neill) is a custodian at a small municipal zoo. He writes in a journal, poetry that softens the cynical observations of a man living in self-imposed penance. Wherever he came from, whoever he was, Ludovic is now alone, silenced by a deed unknown As the story opens, the crisis in the city has escalated. The streets are owned by snipers and guns in the hills are raining shells into the old city. People are fleeing with whatever belongings they can carry. After a night of heavy shelling Ludovic arrives at his job to find the staff abandoning the zoo. He joins a skeleton crew that includes an elderly guard and a veterinarian (Om Puri). Their purpose: to keep the animals alive until help arrives from an international zoological mission.
Within days the guard disappears, the veterinarian is killed and Ludovic is left to the job alone. During a lull in the fighting a wounded ten year boy arrives at Ludovic's doorstep. He is Zioig (Javor Loznica), a survivor from a cleansed village, and a hardened child soldier. Ludovic reluctantly nurses Zioig back to health, dreading the consequences of this sanctuary. Soon Zioig returns with a young woman, Ankica (Gina McKee), his mother, and makes it clear that they will stay in the zoo together and Ludovic will help them. As shells fall within the zoo compound, and feed supplies dwindle, Ludovic is at a loss. Now he must also contend with Dragov (Ulrich Thomsen), a sociopathic captain of a platoon of murderous nationalists searching for Zioig and Ankica. As the war intensifies, the animals are on the brink of starvation. Ludovic, Zioig and Ankica struggle to keep the animals alive. They discover each other, their secrets, and eventually forgiveness and love.