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Checkpoint: Zoo


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Ghost Robot and Noah Media Group are wrapping principal photography on award winning filmmaker Joshua Zeman’s upcoming documentary with the working title Checkpoint: Zoo, a film which documents the daring rescue, led by a rag-tag team of zookeepers and volunteers, who risked their lives to save thousands of animals trapped in a zoo behind enemy lines in the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Produced by Zeman and Zach Mortenson for Ghost Robot, with Ian Davies and Torquil Jones for Noah Media Group, UTA has signed on for worldwide sales and will bring the film to festivals in 2024.

Five weeks after the Invasion of Ukraine first began, EcoPark Zoo’s founder, Oleksandr Feldman, posted a desperate plea to social media — the relentless shelling had left thousands of animals trapped in their cages with little food and water, and only a few zookeepers left to care for them. Miraculously, his social media post went viral and zoos from across Ukraine and Europe were calling with offers to house the remaining animals. Within 24 hours, a group of volunteers had appeared on Feldman’s doorstep offering to help any way they could. And so, it was decided that this brave team of zookeepers and volunteers would do the impossible — they would sneak into EcoPark, under the noses of the Russian camped nearby, risking life and limb, to evacuate over 1000 animals.

Joshua Zeman and his team secured exclusive access to EcoPark, including conversations with the volunteers and zookeepers who risked their lives during the evacuation, and access to dozens of hours of video and sound recordings and thousands of photos to tell this story.  

Director Joshua Zeman stated, “Like my previous film, The Loneliest Whale, which deals with the human emotion of loneliness through the search or a whale all alone at sea, Checkpoint: Zoo addresses the human construct of war through the eyes of animals who are acutely aware of the danger and destruction, but have no context for the why of it all.  It is also more than just a film about animals — it's about the real-life heroes who are risking their lives to save them. The result is a story that touches every one of us as it explores themes of connection, and more so, interconnection.”

Joshua Zeman (Director & Exec Producer) is one of the leading voices indocumentary storytelling. His critically acclaimed film CROPSEY is considered one of the top true crime documentaries of all time. In 2017, Zeman directed THE KILLING SEASON, which was also executive produced by Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney. Zeman also directed MURDER MOUNTAIN, a docu-series for Netflix that’s been called “a must-watch”. In 2020, Zeman EP’s and directed THE SONS OF SAM, which was the #1 watched show on Netflix around the world during the week it was released.  Most recently, Zeman directed THE LONELIEST WHALE, a cinematic quest to find the 52Hz Whale, whom scientists believe has spent its entire life in solitude. The film, which was executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, has been called “a modern-day Moby Dick" and was nominated for three Critics Choice Awards. 

In his 25 years of producing documentary films, Zachary Mortensen has constantly traversed and defined genres. From the pioneering exploration of electronic music in Iara Lee’s MODULATIONS (Sundance 1997) and the de finitive hip-hop retrospective of Joey Gar field’s BREATH CONTROL (Tribeca 2002) to the seminal true-crime horror documentary CROPSEY (Tribeca 2005) by Joshua Zeman, Mortensen has always sought out stories on the fringes and intersection of pop and contemporary culture. His films have taken audiences into an evangelical megachurch’s Halloween spectacle (HELL HOUSE - Toronto 2002) and literally into the tub of a water-birth at the world-renowned natural birthing center on the Farm in Tennessee (BIRTH STORY - Los Angeles 2013). Access and insight are a constant throughout all his films, and he is constantly looking for collaborators that challenge the documentary establishment and shine a light on unexpected stories. Zach is the co-founder of Ghost Robot, a New York City-based creative studio.

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