Jane, the new documentary from award-winning director Brett Morgen, pays tribute to the life of chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall.
The National Geographic archives contained over 100 hours of footage from the last 50 years that had never been seen before. It’s from that footage that Morgen draws from to bring us this intimate portrait of the acclaimed researcher. In 1960, when Goodall first made waves, a woman doing this sort of research on chimpanzees was simply unheard of.
Goodall’s story is one that’s best told by way of a documentary rather than as a biopic so credit goes to Morgen for getting it right. The first question one needs to ask is WHY WAS THE FOOTAGE LEFT IN THE ARCHIVES AND WENT UNSEEN FOR SO LONG?!? Now that that’s out of my system, Morgen takes us back to where it all begins: Gombe Stream National Park in northwestern Tanzania in 1960, where Goodall first studies chimpanzees in the wild. Despite having a love of animals, Goodall lacked the tracking that her male colleagues had at the time but brought her own unique approach to observing the animals. It was Goodall who shocked the world when she discovered that chimpanzees were both intelligent, social and used tools when finding food.
National Geographic sent Dutch filmmaker Hugo van Lawick to film her work in 1962 and it should come as no surprise that the two get married two years later and have a child. She joins him in the Serengeti plains so he can film footage of lions. They divorced in 1974. It’s his footage that helps make this documentary what it is in addition to interviews with Goodall, home videos, and research footage provided by the Jane Goodall Institute.
One thing I found interesting while watching the documentary was that Goodall reveals that she was a man in her dreams because men were more likely to accomplish things then women in the 1950s. Maybe it’s because I’m a transgender woman and was always a woman in my dreams but I found that part to be very intriguing with regards to my personal experience.
Because of all the unearthed footage, Jane isn’t just an intimate and unprecedented documentary. It’s her origin story shown on camera.
National Geographic opened Jane in New York and LA on October 20, 2017. The documentary will expand into more locations, including Arclight Cinemas in Chicago, on October 27, 2017. The documentary will screen on Monday and Tuesday at the Chicago International Film Festival.