Jane review – wondrous footage lights up Goodall's Tarzan dream

Jane Goodall’s research into chimp behaviour was a great leap forward in scientific research and this documentary does her work full justice

Here is a portrait of the primatologist as a young woman. Using footage only recently rediscovered in the National Geographic archive, octogenarian Jane Goodall recollects her first field study of chimpanzees in the wild in Tanzania. This was the 1960s, and Goodall was a 26-year-old typist with no academic training. Yet on that trip she made a great leap in scientific research by observing chimps making and using tools. Goodall says that it was her mother who built her self-esteem when she was growing up – encouraging her to see beyond the expectations that a nice, middle-class girl from Bournemouth should get married and start a family. Instead, she dreamed of living with animals in the jungle like Tarzan. There are more than 40 documentaries about Goodall. What makes this one – directed by Brett Morgen, who made The Kid Stays in the Picture – essential, is Goodall’s reflective mood and the wondrous 16mm archive footage shot by Hugo van Lawick, the great wildlife photographer National Geographic sent to film her in Tanzania. The pair fell in love and married (though in the end, Goodall’s happy-ever-after was with the chimps not Van Lawick). One of his miraculous shots, of the annual great migration from Serengeti – a medley of animals gathered together like some majestic parliament of beasts – drew a gasp of wonder from a gentleman sitting behind me.

Watch the trailer for Jane


Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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