Movie Review: Jane (2017) #atozchallenge

This is my entry for “J” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z.  This is the first J documentary I’ve reviewed.

Title: Jane
Release Date: October 20, 2017
Director: Brett Morgen
Production Company: National Geographic Studios

If there’s a reason that I am a person who likes documentaries it probably begins with my childhood when I loved “nature films.”  And the best nature films of that era were National Geographic Specials.  And the most memorable National Geographic Special debuted in 1984: “Among the Wild Chimpanzees.”  I watched it many times and learned to love and admire  the naturalist Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees she introduced, David Greybeard, Flo, Fifi, Flint, Goliath, and many others.

Jane is made using over 100 hours of film shot by Hugo van Lawick in the early 1960s during the period when Goodall was first accepted into the Kasakela chimpanzee community and discovered that chimpanzees used tools, ate meat, and carried out brutal violence on one another. The film is remarkable as we see Jane Goodall, looking younger than I’ve ever seen her in sharp, brilliant colors that look like they were shot yesterday. Goodall herself narrates the film in a series of interviews, scenes of her in the present day occasionally intercut with the archival footage.  What’s remarkable about this film is that it has a retrospective view of Goodall as an older person, yet the use of the archival film allows the story to unfold the process of discovery as if it were just happening.

That the 1960s footage focuses on Goodall as much as the chimpanzees is not surprising when one learns that Goodall and von Lawick fall in love and marry.  Goodall’s personal life is a key part of this documentary, with their initially joyful marriage, the birth of their son Grub and raising him at Gombe, and the strain on the marriage when neither Goodall nor von Lawick wish to give up their work to be together, thus ending in divorce.  Goodall’s growth and acceptance in the scientific community that discriminated against her as a woman, and a young woman with no higher education credentials at that, is also explored.

As a lover of all things Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, I’m the target audience for this documentary.  But I still think I’m objective enough to state that this is a remarkable documentary film that will educated and delight wide audiences.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

In an odd way this is kind of like a “reboot” or “prequel” that fills in the details before other documentaries about Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees of Gombe.  It also shows how her professional and personal lives were intertwined.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

In addition to digging up those old National Geographic Specials, I recommend reading Jane Goodall’s books, including Through a Window and Reason for Hope. You can also read the biography of Goodall by Dale Peterson.

Source: I watched this on demand through Xfinity cable.

Rating: ****