Jane Goodall, now one of the world’s most admired primatologists and conservationists, was 26 years old, had no scientific university degree, or training in the field when, on July 14, 1960, she embarked on a lifelong dream: living in the wild and conducting a pioneering study of chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania. Her boss, Kenyan paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, sent her there – he was looking for “a mind unbiased by scientific theory” – “with the hope that a better understanding of chimpanzee behavior might provide us with a window on our past,” Jane remembers. She took along a notebook, binoculars, and her 54-year-old mother, Vanne Morris-Goodall.
Her discoveries were revolutionary, her passion for her work was monumental, and her study of the chimps is the longest continuous study of a wild animal in history. But, for me, the beauty of the documentary Jane, directed by Brett Morgen, is more than scientific facts, it’s about Jane’s love of the wild life, of nature, of discovery. This is the first thing I want to take away from this wondrous and inspirational portrait of Jane Goodall.
“As a child, which was before tv and computer games, I loved spending time outside,” says Jane when she recounts the beginning of her passion for animals and nature. I hope every parent and every child gets to see this film, because its importance far surpasses the scientific world. It digs deep into not only that quality which makes us, the human beings, the most advanced of the primates (it’s not knowledge, but empathy), but fosters a love for nature, for the wild, and for the wild at heart, as it summons you to live life with an open mind and with a thirst of knowledge that rather stems from your own passions than from university degrees, rationality or the truths known thus far.
photos: Jane Goodall Institute/National Geographic Creative | from archival footage by Hugo von Lawick (pictured in the second image with Jane Goodall)