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Jane Goodall Documentary Shows Her Early Work with Chimpanzees

Jane Goodall arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Jane" at the Hollywood Bowl on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jane Goodall Documentary Shows Her Early Work with Chimpanzees
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For 50 years, the National Geographic Society has been holding 100 hours of film of Jane Goodall in storage.

Now, those images of Goodall and her work with chimpanzees in the forests of Tanzania, have been made into a film documentary.

Jane, the name of the new movie, begins in 1960 when Goodall was 26 years old.

The film documents her early life working in a remote area, far from Tanzania’s major cities.

Goodall never had a university education. Yet her untraditional ways of studying chimpanzees tested scientists’ beliefs about what it means to be a human being.

Goodall spoke to VOA at a special showing of the film “Jane” in Los Angeles. “Well, more than any other documentary that's being made, it does take me back into the actual feeling I had when I was out there in the forest and so it's very moving.”

Goodall made news by discovering that chimpanzees are intelligent, social animals who use tools to gather food. At the time, the scientific community believed only humans had that ability.

"It's not quite family but, it's not quite like friends, but I'm part of their lives, they accept me. I can watch what they do. And, of course, in the time of the movie, we had a really close touching relationship, which we don't have anymore.”

When asked whether she would have done anything differently in her research, Goodall said, "Everything worked out perfectly. Were mistakes made? Of course, but one learns from mistakes, and so I wouldn't have changed anything really."

The music in the documentary is by Philip Glass. When Goodall saw the film with the music, she described it as "magical."

Glass says he was moved when he saw images of Goodall sitting with chimpanzees who had accepted her.

"The very intimacy is when she's sitting with them, and they're like children to her. She's combing their hair and she talks with them and they're just with her as if they've accepted her totally.”

The movie includes images of National Geographic filmmaker Hugo van Lawick, Goodall’s first husband. Director Brett Morgen watched the original footage.

"Going through 100 hours of Hugo Van Lawick's footage is a dream. You know, Hugo's one of the greatest wildlife cinematographers in the history of filmmaking.”

At the Los Angeles showing, Hollywood actor Jamie Lee Curtis described why she respects Goodall.

"She has, just by doing what she loves, has brought us all along on the journey and that's a message if anything. Be uncompromising in your vision, uncompromising in your attack and attitude of what it is that you do.”

Even in present day, Goodall continues to travel, speak about protecting chimpanzees and urge people to protect the natural world.

I’m Susan Shand.


Words in This Story

remote adj. removed from something; outside; far away

magical – adj. of or related to special or supernatural powers

intimacy – n. something of a private or personal nature

combing – v. cleaning and separating one’s hair

cinematographer – n. a movie maker or photographer

journey – n. trip

vision n. the act or power of seeing something

attitude n. a feeling or way of thinking; behavior

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