I have long had a fascination with the natural world.
It’s hard to say where it started exactly – the books of Gerald Durrell? The documentaries of David Attenborough? – but one thing is for sure, the magazines of the National Geographic Society, which my parents subscribed to for years, and specifically stories about conservationist and scientist, Dr. Jane Goodall, who went to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, Africa to study chimpanzees at the age of 26 in 1960 and never really left.
I can remember poring over the issue above over and over (published mere days after my birth), obsessed with the wonder and diversity of life on this planet and impressed with anyone who would work so hard to study it and promote its preservation.
So it thrills me that National Geographic, who got the Goodall wagon rolling for me all those years ago, have commissioned a documentary, Jane, on the great woman’s life, which draws on an impressive amount of footage and research:
“Now, at 83, she’s the subject of a beautiful new documentary, Jane, from Oscar-nominated director Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture; Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) — complete with an original score from Philip Glass. It’s made up of 140 hours of silent footage from Goodall’s earliest days in Gombe that were found in a National Geographic storage locker in 2014. And in addition to all the cute, and sometimes scary, footage of chimps, also reveals the swoon-worthy love story of how Goodall met her first husband, Baron Hugo van Lawick, in the wilds of Africa. He was a handsome and single Dutch photographer and filmmaker — widely regarded as one of the greatest wildlife cinematographers of all time — whom Nat Geo had sent out to chronicle Goodall’s journey, and it’s his footage that was found in that storage locker.” (source: Vulture)
Through the interview with Goodall and Morgen about Jane, featured on Vulture, you get the impression of Goodall’s down to earth nature, her curiosity for the natural world and her willingness to do what it takes to pursue her passion, a quality, she notes, that likely landed her the job with the revered paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey:
“Well, I’d read every book about animals. And then he let me go on an expedition searching for fossils in Kenya, and I think there he saw that I was really fitted for living in the wild, because we had one cup of water a day for washing, and I never complained. We were only allowed to wash our hair when the water truck came back and that was every two weeks.
“But I think even more important was there was one day when we came upon a young male lion, fully grown, and very curious. [The other young woman on the expedition] wanted to go into the thick vegetation to hide. And I said, “That’s silly. He’ll know exactly where we are, but we won’t have a clue where he is.” So I said, “No. We have to climb up onto the open plain.” I think that was the evening that Leakey agreed I was the right person.”
In just the short space of this engrossing interview you get a delightful sense of Goodall is and why she committed so much time and energy, indeed her whole life, to studying and publicising the diverse wildlife of Africa.
That alone should make Jane engrossing, must-see viewing.
Jane will screen in selected theatres across the USA in November and December; no word on international screenings at this time.