Primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall has long been a subject of intense interest due to her studies on chimpanzees, and with the recent discovery of never-before-seen footage providing a deeper look into Goodall’s early studies, the obsession with this revolutionary woman has re-awakened.
Jane follows Goodall through the eyes of wildlife photographer Hugo van Lawick. The first part of the documentary outlines the beginning of Goodall’s time in Africa as she persisted in befriending the chimpanzees despite their seeming disinterest and distrust. After months of her persistence, reward soon surfaced. Eventually the chimps got used to the “blonde ape” in their midst and, rather than running from her, continued their daily life in her presence. This gave Goodall the perfect opportunity to observe their grooming habits, parenting instincts, family mentality, and more—all resulting in surprising correlations to human behavior.
With Goodall’s new and surprising findings came increased press and her research continued to gain popularity. Goodall’s funding increasing, giving her and her team the chance to establish a fully functioning scientific base in the midst of the African jungle to observe the chimpanzees year-round.
Jane also showed a new side of Goodall by not only inviting us into her personal musings as she worked and explored, but also by following her joys and struggles as a wife and mother as she attempted to balance the two alongside her work.
A large portion of the documentary dove into the unique relationship that Goodall formed with Lawick, her cameraman. Goodall preferred to work alone and was upset at first to be paired with Lawick. But with time, she soon began opening up to the cameraman who followed her every step. As the two worked together and connected over their mutual love and respect for animals, they soon became inseparable by choice, fell in love, got married, and had a son. Jane tugged on our hearts with this vivid look at Goodall’s marriage and motherhood by contrasting it with the romantic and maternal relationships she was observing in the chimpanzees she followed.
We fell in love with this documentary because of the holistic way it portrayed Goodall as she revolutionized scientific research with her fascinating findings on the behavior of chimpanzees and other animals as a female in a male-dominated field.