Expect an Oscar nomination for this poignant and historically significant documentary.
Jane Goodall is world-renowned for her study of chimpanzees in the Gombe Reserve, Africa. Incredibly, she accepted her assignment in 1962 at the tender age of 26 while knowing nothing about chimpanzees or their habitat.
This magnificent film, directed by Brett Morgen, makes use of over 100 hours of videotaped footage taken of Ms. Goodall during her early years that were somehow overlooked. Young, adventuresome and dedicated, Ms. Goodall spent her first five months in the jungle unable to make contact with a single chimpanzee.
What unfolds is a story you will never forget. Ms. Goodall’s interaction with the chimps results in her becoming a surrogate member of their extended family. Lured to Jane’s campsite by bananas that she left out in the open for them, they soon began to take clothing and other materials that were fun to tear apart.
Jane was eventually joined in her adventure by Hugo van Lawick, a photographer from National Geographic. They were soon attracted to one another and eventually returned to England to get married. They were a warm, handsome couple who eventually divorced when Hugo’s photographic skills left him dedicated to recording life on the Serengeti while his wife stayed in Gombe to continue her work.
Many of the apes were given names by Ms. Goodall, and their relationship evolved into a platonic friendship. This became all the more difficult to watch when polio spread throughout the ape community, leading to paralysis and death. Be prepared to wipe away tears as you watch these scenes.
The world knew as little about chimpanzees as Jane when she first arrived in Africa in 1962. She was able to discover several different colonies that used sticks to catch edible insects in the same fashion that humans use fishing poles. Unfortunately, the apes also used clubs as weapons, and she observed a war break out that left one colony decimated.
Though Jane was originally sent on her journey to try to obtain some knowledge about how Neanderthal man survived thousands of years ago, she inadvertently discovered a similar relationship between apes and humans. Given our propensity to kill one another on a massive scale across the globe it makes you wonder what apes would be thinking if they tried to study us.