“I see no difference between helping a human and helping an animal.”
In Jane, which is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most disarmingly beautiful documentaries I’ve had the pleasure of watching, audiences are gifted a question deserving of real contemplation. Is the proclamation of life, love and the pursuit of happiness a purely human endeavor? Or are they more primitive than previously believed, the objectives worthy and organic pursuits that highlight all of the similarities between different species? The manner in which Jane tackles these observations left my jaw on the floor – maybe more than any documentary I’ve recently come across – because it so fearlessly and confidently and righteously walks into the unknown with posterity and calmness. Jane is so impassioned and insightful that you feel better for having seen it and will aspire to live out a better, more meaningful existence. Words can’t recommend this inspiring and uplifting movie enough.
As a young and purpose-driven Brit with no formal training or scientific background, Jane Goodall nonetheless found a way to journey all the way to the East African nation of Tanzania to study Chimpanzees, fulfilling her lifelong calling as true and as real as a self-searching Manifest Destiny. There she studied the chimps – blissfully unaware of the great potential they could physically cause her – and the footage (much of it captured by her late husband and lauded wildlife videographer Hugo van Lawick) – shows not only an embrace of blind empathy, but in equal measure a courageous resistance against the dark tides of apathy. There she fell in love, reared a child, and discovered one of the key components that differentiate us from our primate ancestors: we are no better, only more advanced, and the pieces which make us human also peel back the layers of our complexity to reveal a shared primitiveness.
Featuring 100’s of hours of previously thought to be lost footage, the sheer effort required to edit the film together – the painstaking time, the scrutiny, the decision-making behind each cut – demonstrates not only the care from director Brett Morgen and his entire team, but the remarkable joy that Jane Goodall no doubt instilled in those who spent so much time watching and interviewing her gentle spirit. In extremely rare circumstances, movies are able to make me drop my pen, put away my backup ballpoint and to close my notebook, shaking my head in awe of what’s unfolding on the screen before me. Jane elicited more than one bellowing “wow” from my baritone voice, and it’s the kind of film I hope people desperately seek out in the same way that Jane chased the thrill of adventure and purpose like a pirate whose self-actualization had been predetermined on a map of her own finding.
Jane requires viewers to investigate further, to dig deeper into what makes our internal clocks tick in unison, and to forage through the clutter of our memory banks for cataloged moments which best comprise the human heart. From this masterpiece, I was able to glean and to steal an absolutely necessary truth for modern times. One of our biggest problems is that we refrain from viewing death altogether. That we prefer closed caskets or caked corpses, and that we refuse to acknowledge that our life-cycle is hardly different from a ripe tomato picked from its stem, a loyal pet lovingly put down, or a family member laid to rest. If we are to celebrate the start of a life, why must we mourn the absolute end that finalizes each and every story? Jane takes the light-hearted and intelligent approach to all of these questions as it smiles and nods back to those of us in the crowd with dutiful respect and unbound love.
“I was awed by the beauty.”
Rating: 5 out of 5