With over 100 hours of unseen footage, this documentary directed by Brett Morgen takes us through the life of ecologist and conservationist Jane Goodall, who has spent most her life understanding and protecting chimpanzees. In 1957 Jane was merely a young secretary with no scientific qualifications. However, she was invited to Gombe in Nigeria by palaeontologist Louis Leakey where she would be living out there to study the chimpanzees. With no marriage goals set in mind and having dreamt of being amongst the animals, Jane accepted with no second thought and headed straight for her new life into the jungle.

The dream for Jane to be out in the wild is noted with her comical references to Dr Doolittle and Tarzan. Embedded with some humour, you forget you are watching real life footage that has never been seen before, and not just some fictional story. “This is where I was meant to be” Jane says the moment she sets foot on African soil. By her saying this, you feel the passion oozing out of her soul. Her very existence you can tell was made for this journey into the wild. It’s a journey too that is accompanied by an overwhelming, dramatic and powerful score by Philip Glass. Its raw and bold elements set the tone of the film perfectly, which help to enrich this remarkable account of a lifelong dedication to animal welfare and human curiosity.

After spending five months trying to observe and get close to the chimpanzees, and almost losing hope, a breakthrough occurred and there was hope again for Jane. What happens next astounded Jane and so she told the world about it and soon became a name in the papers – although not always for positive reasons. Some members of the public would dismiss her reasoning due to the fact she was a woman who was untrained in the sciences. However, this helped Louis Leakey get the attention needed and with a bit of luck and persuasion, he managed to obtain funding from National Geographic to carry on the research. The deal for this funding, however, was to have filmmaker Hugo van Lawick film and photograph the research. This meant Jane was no longer in her own company and was unhappy about this decision. But soon after she grew fond of him and the rest is history.

The footage throughout the film is simply heart-warming and beautiful. To catch the emotions of the chimpanzees from birth to death is something us humans don’t usually get to see. It is breathtaking, captivating and emotional. By watching it you feel as though you want to make the trip there yourself, just so you can see it with your own eyes. At times it was heartbreaking, the death of harmless and extraordinary creatures being never easy to watch, but then you would laugh at moments that you thought couldn’t possibly be real; chimpanzees eating bananas straight from Jane’s hands for example. This is emblematic of a film, and story, of how one woman created a scientific community with so much passion and lifelong dedication, that will undoubtedly make you feel a sense of admiration. 

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