Susan Granger’s review of “Jane” (National Geographic)


National Geographic’s new documentary about Jane Goodall reveals how the acclaimed naturalist arrived in Gombe, Tanzania, in the 1960s and chronicles her fascination with chimpanzees.

What makes it extraordinary is director Brett Morgen’s use of rare 16-millimeter footage shot by Jane’s husband, Hugo van Lawick. Previously thought to be lost, it was discovered in 2014 in a storage unit and has been cleverly intercut with recent interviews with the legendary primatologist as she reflects on her remarkable life.

“From the age of 10, I dreamed of going to live with wild animals and write books about them,” she notes. “Nobody knew anything about chimpanzees. There were no methods or field research. To learn about chimps meant being with them and gaining their trust. So that’s what I did.”

Barefoot, petite Jane Goodall met Hugo van Lawick when the Dutch photographer was dispatched by National Geographic to chronicle her remarkable work in the Gombe Wilderness:

“Proof from van Lawick’s footage – showing chimpanzees kissing, embracing, holding hands, grooming one another, begging for food, showing they have a dark side to their nature, but also compassion, love and altruism, clearly illustrating that they can be angry, sad and die of grief – finally forced scientists to admit that we’re not the only creatures on the planet with personality, mind and emotions. We are part of the animal kingdom, not separated from it.”

While van Lawick was capturing on film significant moments of Jane’s interaction with the chimpanzees, they fell in love and were married in 1964. Soon after, they had a son, nicknamed “Grub,” who accompanied them everywhere, even when van Lawick was transferred to Africa’s Serengeti. But Jane’s heart remained with her work in Gombe; they eventually separated in 1974, sharing custody of Grub.

Now 83, Goodall still travels around the world, advocating for conservancy, and she served as an advisor on “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jane” is an enthralling, enlightening 8 – an absolute delight!