Dr. Jane Goodall is a woman who often needs no introduction. The British primatologist has taught the world about wild chimpanzees for decades. As an environmentalist, the 83-year-old has also been spreading awareness about wildlife conservation all her life. With a soft-spoken but resolute demeanor, Goodall has captured the attention of millions of people, and quite a few documentaries have been filmed to share her fascinating life and mission. So why make yet another film?
National Geographic recently found 100 hours of never before released footage of the researcher hidden in its archives. The unearthed gem shows 26-year-old Goodall as she began her journey in the jungle. Set in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania during the 1960s, the footage sheds new light on the famous researcher. Photographer and filmmaker Hugo van Lawick created the 16mm film before winning several awards throughout his career. He also became Goodall’s husband shortly after meeting her.
The 50-year-old footage showed Goodall’s groundbreaking work as it unfolded. When she arrived in Africa, Goodall had no science background or even a college degree. She had been sent to Tanzania by paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey to report back an unbiased review of what she found out about wild chimpanzees. The young secretary was armed only with her passion for animals, curiosity, and infinite patience.
Through her persistence, Goodall revolutionized the way scientists understood primates and discovered substantial scientific breakthroughs. The documentary highlights how Goodall was able to change not only how people looked at primates, but also how society viewed women in the field of science.
Apart from her research and professional journey, the director also turns his lens to Goodall’s personal life. Goodall describes how her mother encouraged her to pursue her dreams in a time when sexism usually limited women in the workforce. Not only did she emotionally support her, but Goodall’s mother even went as far as to accompany her daughter to Africa on her early trips. The film continues to track her personal growth as she marries van Lawick, has a child and later wrestles with choosing between following her career or divorcing her husband.
Goodall, while initially hesitant about yet another documentary focused on her work, came around to the value of the new material as well. Goodall told Observer, “More than any of the others, [this film] takes me right back into how it was back then.” She hopes the film will help spread awareness about the issues that threaten wildlife. Jane will be released in limited theaters starting on October 20th. For more details, check out the National Geographic website a complete list of screenings.
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