animals reviews

Jane (2017).

Every so often, I’ll be reviewing different films, books, and other forms of media about animals. Some will be about animals here in the Pacific Northwest while others will be about animals around the world. For the first review, I saw the new documentary about Dr. Jane Goodall, titled Jane.

It’s hard to live a life as an animal lover and not have some fond regard for Dr. Jane Goodall. My own experience with Dr. Goodall was always peripheral – she was someone to admire and look up to but I never really knew much about her. Because of that and on a neighbor’s recommendation, I went to go see the recent documentary about her life and early days researching the chimpanzees of the Gombe National Park. And it did not disappoint.

If you have any interest in science, Jane Goodall, animals, or all of the above, this will be a great documentary for you to see. It’s comprised of archival footage from the early stages of Goodall’s research, a new interview with Goodall herself, and some of her writings. The archival footage comes from Goodall’s ex-husband and renowned wildlife photographer, the late Hugo van Lawick, and until 2014, over a hundred hours of this footage was thought to be lost.

One of the best parts of this documentary is that it answers questions but leaves you curious for more. If you’re like me, you leave knowing significantly more about Goodall and her life/research but still wanting to know more about conservation work and about the animals Goodall dedicated her life to understanding. I left the theater wishing I had one of her books to devour immediately and spent the next day thinking about this film.

Another amazing aspect of this film is how it speaks to what we can learn from animals about the world and ourselves. Before Goodall’s work, we knew nothing about wild chimpanzees and the documentary really highlights what she learned about these animals and how that knowledge can be applied to people. It was through her work that we learned that humans aren’t the only ones to use tools and Goodall speaks to how her research influenced how she was as a mother.

Brett Morgen, the director, should be given credit for how this documentary paints such an intimate understanding of Goodall and her early work. The film is mostly in her voice, with the occasional off camera question from Morgen or comment from others, and this allows the audience to better understand what she was feeling and thinking during this time. With access to over 100 hours of footage, it’s incredibly impressive that Morgen organized the film in such a chronological and organized way. This documentary told the story of Goodall’s research and life without becoming a boring science documentary.

It’s difficult to not be captivated with every moment of this film; there are moments of joy, patience, laughter, love. After watching this film, I left with not only a better understanding and love for Dr. Jane Goodall but a deeper love and dedication to animals and conservation work. If you can, I definitely recommend seeing this film, especially if you have any appreciation or curiosity for science or Dr. Jane Goodall.

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