You’ve probably heard of Jane Goodall. But have you really heard her story? If not, Jane is the film for you. Even if you think you know her work, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.
For those who don’t know, Jane Goodall is a researcher who brought the world a greater understanding of chimpanzees, living with them, and doing her research without the preconceptions that had been held up to that point. She also was a rare woman in a world almost completely dominated by men. The documentary film Jane by director Brett Morgen takes advantage of over 100 hours of never before seen footage, shot by what would be Goodall’s future husband, Hugo van Lawick, during her most famous years of research.
The film is about these great apes, but it is really more about Goodall’s life, and how this research was her life. She met her future husband while researching chimps. She learned about bringing up a child from chimps. Her son’s first 5 years were with chimps. And her marriage eventually ended because of chimps. This is a heartwarming story of the dedication one woman had to achieve her dream of living with and studying animals.
Throughout the film, we see footage of Goodall in Gombe, the location where she was best able to do her research. We see her struggles to actually interact with the chimps, the problems success eventually caused, and hear in recent interview footage Goodall’s reflections on this time. Sometimes one wonders how this or that bit of footage could have been shot without a little bit of posing. Morgen, however, does a great job of recontextualizing some footage to tell the story of Goodall.
The premiere was at the Hollywood Bowl, with a live orchestra playing the lovely score by Philip Glass. Both Glass and Goodall were in attendance, and while Glass didn’t speak, Goodall showed herself to be as sharp and charming as she has always been. Unlike the other presenters, she spoke without prompter, and kept the 15,000+ audience entertained for the few minutes she spoke.
One point that she wanted to make with her participation in this film: humans have a responsibility to be good caretakers for the world for the animals. That is what she wants us to take away from this film. But the film itself shows us a life led with singular purpose, a woman achieving her childhood dreams and contributing to the world. A definite must-see for documentary fans.
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