“Jane” Goodall’s work on chimpanzees on film shot in the 1960s becomes backstory for a new documentary

Jane” (2017), a National Geographic documentary directed by Brett Morgen, tells its backstory with “animals” (quasi non-human persons – chimpanzees) set in the 1960s in Gombe, Nigeria, and then Tanzania with found (in 2014) footage of Jane Goodall’s work at the time.  The film is based on her own autobiography, “My Life with Chimpanzees”.

In modern day, Jane is often interviewed, while the backstory shows her as a young woman, who spent five months camping out alone before getting the chimps to be comfortable around her.  Very early on. she discovers that the chimps can make simple tools to get at food (especially insects).

In the meantime, she married Hugo Van Wawick from the Netherlands (after saying she didn’t need a family) and had her own son, who would grow up in camp in Tanzania but go back to England for schooling.  As a little boy, you wonder if he could play with toddler chimps as equals.

The chimps learn to use the couple’s feeding station properly, and the chimps tend to view people as chimps themselves with oddly largely hairless bodies.  A polio epidemic occurs among the chimps, and the couple considers vaccinating them. Later, a political dispute or warfare (rather prescient of humans) develops between northern and southern factions of the chimps, rather like our own Civil War.

But the saddest story concerns a young chimp who seems autistic, never stopping suckling, and losing the will to live when his mom dies. That autism would occur in other primates besides man should provide major clues to the genetics of pervasive developmental disorders.

Wikipedia images:

Gombe picture: Goodall shelter

Chimpanzee picture

Tanzania picture

genealogy of chimpanzees to humans (full bipedalism seems to be the crucial step that facilitated human cognitive development to work with language, money, abstraction, and the transmission of culture)

Name:  “Jane”
Director, writer:  Brett Morgen, Jane Goodall
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1 with a lot of 1960s footage
When and how viewed:  Landmark E-street 2017/11/3 nearly sold out
Length:  90
Rating:  G
Companies:  Abaroama, National Geographic Films, Magnolia
Link:  Natgeo

(Posted: Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 11 AM EDT)