Jane Review - Fascinating Story of Jane Goodall, Her Family and Life in The Jungle

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Jane, from National Geographic Studios and Abramorama, tell the amazing story of a young Jane Goodall from the vantage point of age, she reflects on her early days in the jungle, the joys, disappointment, and her unexpected fame.

Directed by Brett Morgen, Jane stars Jane Goodall, with archival photography from Hugo Van Luwick.

Jane begins with close ups of jungle inhabitants, long bodies caterpillars moving gently along the reed of grass, spiders eating the dinner caught, as the scope of the animal life increases birds, of every shade, color and combinations. And then the whir of the motorboat and froth of the water churning up under the propellers.

In voice over we hear the well-known story of Jane Goodall, explaining in her way, that she had no plans for any of this she was simply going to live in Africa with the animals and learn about them. That, apparently, was that and was cemented long before she set foot on the Rain-Forest Reserve at Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania in 1960.

Morgen, who also served as interviewer asked her common and 21st Century questions, especially after the recent arguments of domesticating "wild" animals and the laws in place to protect citizens from the horrors of animals who revert to natural instinct.

Which began more like – "Weren't you afraid? They could ripe your face off." Her response was very clear. Fear it seems had no place in her thoughts or plans. With unprecedented and decades of journals, drawings, photography, and studies Jane presents the beginnings of a young girls dream that had no real formula, plan other than planning to watch the Chimpanzees, or time frame.


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So how did Jane Goodall, a young girl of modest means at 26, as she explains end up in the jungles of Tanzania? Fate, is probably the easiest explanation with a few intersections of destiny as she had no formal education, she waited tables, saved all her money as she planned to go to Africa.

Finally she arrived at a friend's farm, which is not in the film, and met Professor Louis Leakey, a paleontologist who happened to be looking for an field researcher. Soon with each hiding a little of their real plans, she wanting to work in the field, and he planning on raising funds to send a team to the field to study apes, he agreed to hire her as his secretary. In 1958, two years before he would send her into the field she was sent to London to study primate behaviors.  In 1960, Leakey had raised the funds and Goodall, who had to be accompanied by her mother, set off to Gombe Stream National Park.

A young girl pursuing her dream, taking the chances to arrange chance encounters to answer opportunity when it knocked and more importantly knocked on the door of opportunity until it opened for her became the world's foremost and noted scholar and intensive study on Primates and the relationship to humans.

Oddly, Jane who had no university training was sent to Cambridge on the merits of the research and recommendation of Professor Leakey, and earned a Ph.D. in ethology. She became only the eighth person in the history of Cambridge University to study without a undergraduate degree.

The film fast forwards through the days of research that seem to end as it began with no real headway into the habits of the primates. Spying, each day, an outsider, never really being invited to the party and frolic with the apes as they genuinely seemed to be having a good time, was quite disheartening for Goodall, as she explains it in the film. Sitting atop a hill or in a tree waiting to be approached was not really what she had planned, and finally one day as she decided to creep closer to the herd, she spied in the branches, a grey bearded fellow, snapping off twigs for dinner.

As the two meet eyes, he moved, slowly and she followed, slowly. Soon she was on the perimeter of the family herd. While noticed she was almost ignored as the apes sensed she was not afraid nor dangerous.

As the film goes she explained she returned the next day to the same place with the same group of apes. Each day, she began to document, with charts and graphs, and drawings the behaviors which until that time were unknown to the science community as for the known world, in the 1960's, only man hand to ability to think, reason and had a language in which to communicate.

The research she discovered in Tanzania changed those findings and opened up an entirely different area of study as Apes, she documented and witnessed has the ability to reason, understand toolmaking in the sense of hunting and gathering food, which is documented by photography as we see her Ape use a strong twig the size of a straw and insert in the ant hill and pull out ants on a stick! It was a scientific breakthrough!  

Suddenly National Geographic wanted to fund the project and Professor Leakey agreed. The caveat of course was they sent their own photographer, Hugo Van Luwick. A noted wild life photographer, Jane talks of her early days of not really wanting him around and once he began to show the fascination of the project she warmed up to him. The footage was stunning, and the apes were getting used to Jane and realizing she was "safe" they decided to make themselves at home and were captured on early surveillance cameras pulling bananas from her tent.

It was the breakthrough that brought the apes to her and soon with the banana reward system in place, they were able to do some testing. As they realized the Apes are well skilled at snatching even the most unusual items, not always for food, although the choice of cardboard for eating was a surprise, the dishtowels, which were bright and a favorite of all.  

With the National Geographic funding ending Hugo, whom Jane had come to enjoy, was also off to another shoot. A few days after he had departed, a telegram arrived, it wasn't quite what she had expected and then neither was her now bustling and world renown Ape Study program.

The film moves into the next phase of her life, as a wife and mother, and always never too far from her new normal life in Tanzania.

The film also depicts the effects of Polio on her beloved Apes, who came to her hoping for assistance as somehow, somewhere they were exposed to human polio. Limbs no longer of use, arms, legs and for grey beard who she had a special relationship, to see him totally immobile, which the films documents, with his fur and skin raw from scooting himself on the ground, no longer able to walk, she made the decision to euthanize. She saw no other option to end his suffering. It was this event that began the correlation between human and primate disease. The Apes were vaccinated for polio.

The post-polio also saw several apes pass away, which seem to divide the entire herd. Separation of the species, ended in a massive slaughter, a class war between the primates. It was as if the primates were waiting for the right moment and suddenly without warning attacked those who had left the camp, and didn't stop until every primate that had separated was killed. The stunning savagery shocked Jane and she mentioned specifically the unbelievable brutality.


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She and Hugo photographed some of the most widely known and considered the and considered the most extraordinary films and images of the Serengeti. Which could be a documentary in and of itself. See this documentary. Lose yourself for a few moments to a world far way. The breathtaking Serengeti sunsets and footage is inspiring.

Jane is in theaters now. I wholeheartedly recommend this documentary. It is enlightening beyond anything before. Ms. Goodall is still alive and lives in Der es Salaam, Tanzania.

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