VOD film review: Jane (2017)
Ivan Radford | On 22, Apr 2020
Director: Brett Morgen
Cast: Jane Goodall
Watch Jane online in the UK: Disney+ / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / CHILI
“My mother encouraged my love of animals. She never said ‘You’re just a girl you can’t achievement anything.'” That’s Jane Goodall, chimpanzee expert, hugely influential environmental campaigner and a UN Messenger of Peace. She has a plaque on the Tree of Life in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, has pioneered wildlife research and was named a Dame in 2004. She did all of this not through a college degree nor through family connections, but through brains, ambition, passion and childhood dreams. She’s a wonder of the world in her own right.
It’s only fair, then, that she get a documentary profiling her and director Brett Morgen does a wonderful job of distilling her path through the world into a fascinating 90-minute portrait. He takes us back to her childhood, when a stuffed chimp inspired her to want to go to Africa – and go she did, finding her way to Kenyan scientist Louis Leakey who was looking for a chimpanzee researcher.
Not coloured in any way by academia or current thinking, she set off to embed herself with chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania, and get to know and understand them. Her insights brought with them the now-typical anthropomorphic habit of naming them (“David Greybeard” for the grey-chinned senior, “Goliath” for the alpha male), but also allowed for the idea that primates could have rational thoughts and feelings like humans, thought at that time to be the only species capable of such things. Observing them fashioning tools and showing aggression, she not only helped transform the way that humans think of animals, but also blazed a trail in what was a male-dominated field.
All of this is absorbing enough – so absorbing, in fact, that you almost don’t consider how this film has been put together. Morgen, who gave us Cobain: Montage of Heck, pieces it together from more than a hundred hours of National Geographic footage, crafting a narrative throughline and picking out human moments while saturating the 16mm video (shot by Hugo van Lawick) with gorgeous colours. Accompanied by Philip Glass’ mellifluous score, and a plethora of recreated natural sounds, the result is a vibrant tribute to a vital force of nature, one that’s uplifting not only for the scientific achievements caught on-screen but for the carefree determination that saw Jane brush off concerns from one interviewee that chimpanzees could tear her face off and focus on her dreams. Anyone who says documentaries can’t be dramatic and exciting enough for kids, stick this on and let the whole family be inspired.
Jane (2017) is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.