It’s very difficult to hear the name Jane Goodall and not think about her work with chimpanzees, but in the documentary ‘Jane,’ directed by Brett Morgen which opens in theaters on October 20th, a new insight on her life and work is gained giving a fascinating look at the woman who changed the world of scientific research.
Taking over 100 hours of never before seen footage from the National Geographic archives mingled with interview sessions with the 83-year-old Goodall, the film provides a unique look that is often introspective and unexpectedly engaging. It’s one thing to be aware of Goodall’s work, but it is another thing to actually see the woman in action in a way that has never been seen before.
Amazingly, Goodall stumbled upon this passion of hers when, at the age of 26 and with no scientific background, went to Tanzania to observe apes in their natural habitats to see if a correlation can be made between them and early man. From here, you see how her innate curiosity and kindness between Goodall and the primates transcends between species and allows her access to them at a time when such a thing was unheard of.
However, beneath this air of serenity there exists a steel determination seen when, after the initial 6 week observation period of her first outing, she sent a telegram to Louis Leakey, a renowned paleoanthropologist who encouraged Goodall to join this mission, that she observed a chimp using a twig as a tool. His reply was that of skepticism stating, ““Now we must redefine tool. Redefine man. Or accept chimpanzees as human.” While this may be off-putting to some, it only spurred Goodall in her quest to learn more. In fact, her ability to succeed in a very male-dominated field while enduring the negative comments from her male colleagues is an inspiration, especially as you watch how she stands by her convictions without compromising her integrity.
While Goodall’s interaction with the chimps was indeed interesting to watch, it was how her work influenced her relationship with her late cameraman-turned-husband Hugo van Lawick as well as helped her become a mom that I found most intriguing. This brief look into her personal life showed a different side of her that few may realize.
With the highs of the film, you also experience the lows such as when you watch Goodall so heartbroken when she finds her chimps succumb to polio after being exposed to it by humans and the realization that chimps are just as capable of becoming savages like humans to the point of inciting war among themselves.
Watching ‘Jane’ is an emotional ride that will give you a new appreciation of not only the study of primates but how much of an influence Jane Goodall has made in the field and how she devotes each day to her ideology and causes from ape preservation to environmental and conservation issues. Even if you are not into documentaries, “Jane” is one that to watch that will leave an impression.