LFF Review: Brett Morgen's 'Jane' Documentary is Sublime & Inspiring
by Alex Billington
October 12, 2017
Oh my do I love this documentary. It's as close to perfection as any film can get, and it will fill you with hope and happiness. Jane is a documentary made by filmmaker Brett Morgen (of The Kid Stays in the Picture, Chicago 10, Cobain: Montage of Heck) that's about the groundbreaking work of animal lover and activist Jane Goodall. As we all know, Goodall went out in the jungles of Africa in the 1960s and 1970s and lived with chimpanzees, studying them and observing how closely related to humans they really are. They shot tons of footage of her, but most of it was lost for years, until it was found recently. Morgen and his crew went through thousands of hours of this old footage and created this wonderful film about Goodall, about her work, about chimpanzees, and about her relationship with photographer Hugo van Lawick. It is sublime.
There is so much I love about this film, but I'll start by discussing how brisk it is - running only 90 minutes in full. While every single shot is worth admiring, Morgen never lets any of it linger too long, but it never seems like he's rushing through any of her story either. We're introduced to Jane, who at the time had no experience and was recruited from her secretary job to go be a researcher in the field. We then follow her, narrated by a recent interview with Goodall as well as old audio recordings, as she gets closer and closer to the chimps in the wild. Eventually it coves her relationship with Hugo van Lawick, who was sent by National Geographic to photograph her work, along with the evolution of her chimpanzee research. Finally we get to her family, and what it was like raising a child in Africa in the field in the middle of this. Most importantly, it talks about how this woman encountered so much sexist resistance yet persisted and remained fervent.
The footage in Jane is breathtakingly beautiful, which is even more impressive considering it was shot in the 1960s on grainy film stock in the middle of the African jungles, lost in storage for years, and then recovered and restored. There are gorgeous silhouette sunset shots, cute shots of Jane hiding behind leaves and foliage, footage of her scavenging through the jungle, and lots of footage of her encountering and hanging around with the chimps, even plenty of shots of insects and other animals from Africa. This footage is then topped off with a perfect score by Philip Glass, which is exhilarating and exciting and moving. It makes the film even more sublime and is the perfect compliment to this wonderful story of an inspirational, passionate woman. It also helps keep the pace, and pulls audiences deeper into the story's grandeur as it progresses.
Brett Morgen's Jane is also proof that there actually are some filmmaker men out there dedicated to telling inspiring, empowering stories of wonderful women. Not only is this documentary inspiring for animal lovers and researchers and people who just love to get out into nature, but it's an empowering story for women, about an independent adventurer who consistently rejected intense sexism and made a name for herself. It's even more rousing to see how much she has accomplished and how her legacy has become even stronger with time. Her work, her activism, and her passion will live on forever and hopefully keep the chimpanzees protected, and encourage more people to fight for animals and defend this beautiful planet we live on. This documentary captures that in the most enlivening, heartening way and is a wonderful cinematic experience.
Alex's London 2017 Rating: 9.9 out of 10
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