When I was young, I wanted to be Jane Goodall.
My love of monkeys aside, I was inspired by the strong and confident woman who appeared on the covers of magazines, championing women’s independence and respect in leadership roles. The genesis of Goodall’s expansive and colorful career is explored in Jane, the new film from famed documentarian Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, The Kid Stays in The Picture). The movie is cinematic in its aesthetic (including a powerful and enchanting score from Philip Glass) while keeping to Morgen’s minimalist style. Jane is a powerhouse film that not only sheds light on this incredible woman but serves as a reminder to stop and appreciate the natural wonders and beauty in our surroundings.
I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of ‘Jane’ at the Hollywood Bowl, in which the film was to be accompanied by a live orchestra. The energy flowed through the thousands of seats as soon as the first violin string was played. The love for the woman onscreen was apparent and I have to insist that this film should be seen on the big screen to achieve its maximum effect.
Yes, there have been a number of films chronicling the life and times of Jane Goodall, who is most widely known for her study of chimpanzees and their behavior in the wild, but this is not just another documentary. Jane was comprised of footage shot by notable wildlife photographer (and her eventual husband) Hugo van Lawick during her assignment in Gombe, Tanzania in the 1960’s. What truly makes this film special is the fact that this archived footage– 140 hours of 16mm color footage to be exact– was only recently discovered by National Geographic. Upon finding this treasure trove of material, Nat Geo called upon Brett Morgen to piece together a story that would serve as the definitive in-depth portrait of Goodall’s life, and the result is nothing short of transfixing.
The film is told in a linear format aided by the present-day interviews from Jane herself, which are interwoven sporadically throughout. As she talks about traveling to Tanzania at the age of 26 with no formal college training, images of a vibrant young Jane hiking through the wilderness in high top converse and her khaki jungle uniform fill the screen. Here we see a self-proclaimed “naive” young girl braving the Gombe Stream alone and coming face to face with a group of chimpanzees, whose trust would take many months to earn.
Those who see Jane will no doubt walk away with newfound respect and admiration for her unassuming feminism and her contribution to the world.
These never before seen moments of Jane’s initial bonding with chimpanzees and the relationship she would develop with them over time are priceless. One of the first times Jane witnesses a chimp use a tool to extract bugs from a hole for food is caught on camera. It is then when she realizes that similarities between humans and chimpanzees exist in much more than genetic make-up, but also in emotion, intelligence, and the hierarchy of relationships. These findings catapulted Jane to international acclaim as she brought controversial observations to the forefront of science.
Jane highlights the substantial impact Goodall has made on this planet, as well as encourages exploration and environmental conservation. But perhaps the most refreshing reason to be grateful for this archived footage is its timeliness, given the string of recent cultural events. Jane was a pioneer for women in science and a trailblazer for those who pursued their passion instead of just being satisfied with societies expectations. Those who see Jane will no doubt walk away with newfound respect and admiration for her unassuming feminism and her contribution to the world.
Jane is not rated. 90 minutes. Opening at The Landmark this Friday.