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Jane Goodall Documentary Shows Development in Understanding of Man and Chimp

Jane Goodall arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Jane" at the Hollywood Bowl, Oct. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles.

After 50 years of sitting in the National Geographic archives, 100 hours of footage on Jane Goodall and her groundbreaking observations of chimpanzees in the African forest of Tanzania have been compiled into a documentary film.

The documentary titled "Jane" starts in 1960 when Jane Goodall was 26 years old.

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Jane Goodall Documentary Shows Development in Understanding of Man and Chimp
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Through interviews with Goodall and National Geographic footage, the film documents Goodall’s early years, as a woman with no university degree, working in a remote part of Tanzania. The film portrays her work and personal life. Her unconventional ways of observing chimps challenged the scientific community’s belief on what it means to be human.

“More than any other documentary that has been made, it does take me back to the actual feeling I had when I was out there in the forest and so it’s very moving," Goodall said at a screening of the film in Los Angeles.

The music in the documentary was composed by Philip Glass. When Goodall saw the film with the music, she described it as "magical."

The moment in the documentary that especially moved Glass was when Goodall was sitting with chimpanzees who had accepted her.

“The very intimacy when she is sitting with them [chimps] and they’re like children to her. She’s combing their hair and she talks with them and they’ve accepted her totally,” Glass said.

Goodall remembered her unique relationship with the chimps.

“It’s not quite family but, it’s not quite like friends, but I’m part of their lives. They accept me. I can watch what they do. In the time of the movie, we had a really close touching relationship, which we don’t have anymore,” Goodall said.

With that close relationship, Goodall made headlines by discovering that chimpanzees are intelligent, social animals who used tools to gather food, something the scientific community at the time, believed only humans could do.

When asked whether she would have done anything differently in her research, Goodall said, "Everything worked out perfectly. Were mistakes made? Of course, but one learns from mistakes, and so I wouldn’t have changed anything really.”

Jane features the footage of National Geographic filmmaker Hugo van Lawick, Goodall’s first husband.

“Going through 100 hours of Hugo Van Lawick‘s footage is a dream. You know, Hugo’s one of the greatest wildlife cinematographers in the history of filmmaking,” director Brett Morgen said.

At the Los Angeles screening, Hollywood actor Jamie Lee Curtis described why she is in awe of Goodall.

“She has just, by doing what she loves, has brought us all along on the journey and that’s a message if anything. Be uncompromising in your vision, uncompromising in your attack and attitude of what it is that you do,” Curtis said.

Even in present day, Goodall continues to travel and speak about protecting chimpanzees and being good stewards of the natural world.