Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"Morgen infuses new life into Jane Goodall's groundbreaking wildlife study that took place over half a century ago."

She became the first person to ever study chimpanzees up-close in the wild and shocked the world by discovering their toolmaking abilities. Dr Louis Leakey's secretary, a 26-year-old woman with no science degree but great patience and an even greater love of animals, was sent to Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park in 1960 to get as close to the local wild chimpanzees as humanly possible. Her name is Jane Goodall and she did get phenomenally close.

Brett Morgen's absorbing documentary, assembled mainly from the 16mm archival films shot by Jane's at the time soon to be husband, filmmaker and photographer Hugo van Lawick, brings us right there into their world. The breathtaking animal footage, mostly colour, some black and white, Lawick shot for National Geographic, is accompanied by an interview with present-day Jane and an original score by Philip Glass.

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The up to this point unseen footage gives us unforgettable glimpses into the Gombe chimpanzees' tactics of mothering and warfare, thievery and grooming. Goodall talks about how as a child she dreamt -"as a man" - that she was going to go to Africa and live with animals. She wanted to talk to them like Dr Doolittle and be "without fear" like Tarzan.

Her interactions in the wild brought her to the following realization: "The more I learned, the more I realised how much like us they were." They crave friendly contact just as we do and when the footage turns to startling black and white, we also see an all too familiar violent streak.

Baby Flint, lolloping all over the camp, enchants humans and chimpanzees alike and van Lawick's remarkable images of the Serengeti plains makes it all too clear what is at stake today with chimpanzee numbers dwindling and world leaders who see the protection of our and their world as an afterthought.

Morgen, who his known for Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, infuses new life into Jane Goodall's groundbreaking wildlife study that took place over half a century ago. And while we time travel with our long-limbed, somewhat mischievous guide, we are never allowed to lose track of how all we see connects to the future.

Jane, executive produced by Tim Pastore (LA 92), a Spotlight on Documentary highlight in the 55th New York Film Festival and screened in the DOC NYC Short List program, has been selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Documentary Branch as one of the 15 films to be considered for an Oscar nomination.

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2017
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Documentary about primatologist Jane Goodall.

Director: Brett Morgen

Writer: Brett Morgen

Year: 2017

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US

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