Monday evening, my friend, Erica, and I went to see the documentary JANE. It’s been awhile since I have talked about a movie. This incredibly well edited, well documented film that uses footage that has sat unseen in the National Geographic library for over 60 years, chronicles Jane Goodall’s life and love with the Chimpanzees of Tanzania.
I don’t think there is a person alive who hasn’t heard of Jane Goodall but most, like me, know the bare basics. That she was English, that she was the first person to ever get close to chimpanzees in order to record observations that had never been known prior. I had seen photos of her up close with a chimp and both looked lovingly at each other.
What documentarian, Brett Morgan, has done in bringing Jane’s story to life is nothing next to extraordinary. The film is narrated by Jane herself and set to the emotional music of Philip Glass. We see her as a young 26 year old woman who goes to Africa with no science degrees or education, chosen because she would be objective about what she sees. We follow her as she attempts and finally succeeds to get closer to the Chimpanzees that live near to her.
I learned on the website that “Morgen took veteran indie cinematographer Ellen Kuras to Tanzania to spend two days filming a wide-ranging interview with Goodall, now in her early eighties and a subject of great candor, humor and warmth.” The opening shots of the smaller beings in nature were clearly filmed in the present. Yet, the footage from the 60s, shot by the great filmographer, Hugo van Lawick, who later becomes Goodall’s husband, hold up well next to the present footage.
Watching this film was a peek of such intimacy into the life of the young Goodall, the growing romance between her and van Lawick, the birth of her son and the birth of the first chimpanzee baby that she knew and all the challenges that followed. One would be absent a heart to not be deeply moved when looking into the eyes of David Greybeard, the first chimpanzee that she named. Chimpanzees make tools, think through actions, suffer grief and have war-like tendencies just as humans. In fact, the one thing that differentiates the chimpanzee from the human is language.
Many much better written reviews of Jane have been written and I urge you to read them so that you will be convinced to go see this remarkable film.
Production company: National Geographic Studios, in association with Public Road Productions
Director-screenwriter: Brett Morgen
Producers: Brett Morgen, Bryan Burk, James Smith, Tony Gerber
Executive producers: Tim Pastore, Jeff Hassler
Director of photography: Ellen Kuras
Archival photography: Hugo van Lawick
Music: Philip Glass
Editor: Joe Beshenkovsky
Animation: Stefan Nadelman