Chuck Jaffee: Jane Goodall, then and still |

Chuck Jaffee: Jane Goodall, then and still

Look at me acting. Look at me playing sports. Look at me running for political office. Look at me researching chimpanzees in the wild. Wait … what?

Way down the fame chain, Jane Goodall learned something early in her career. To sustainably fund her work of scientifically looking at chimpanzees, she needed to appear on camera. She needed to be watched doing the watching. (She learned, simultaneously, that filming the research enriched the scientific efforts.)

In the documentary “Jane,” we are treated to lots of vintage National Geographic footage of a person in the early years of a dream come true, a passion transformed into a profession.

Goodall’s profession not only traversed uncharted territory about the individual and societal behavior of our primate cousins. She also broke ground in a man’s world. Her career since 1960 has evolved into education, advocacy, and organizing people around wildlife issues.

The film juxtaposes young Jane and interviews with an incomparable ambassador still active more than 50 years later. Seeing her poise and elegance in her twenties and her eighties and seeing the chimpanzees she has studied so diligently, more than doubles the treats of this film.

The chimpanzees furnish the lively aspects of this informative experience, but it is the account of Jane Goodall’s life and personality that makes it a movie.

It includes insight into her childhood (raised in England) and her married life (wildlife photographer Hugo van Lawick with whom she worked in Africa) and motherhood (her only child, Hugo grew up amidst the field research). This, too, is enriched by film clips.

Curious to say perhaps, patience is a driving flavor of this homage: the way Goodall situated herself to realize her studies, the way she understood the presence of the camera, the way she cultivated countless hours of devotion into decades.

Is Jane Goodall the Meryl Streep, the Billie Jean King of wildlife science? Let’s not get too distracted by the fame game. See “Jane.” It is good time spent with the laudable substance of a prominent person.

“Jane” shows at the Nevada Theatre at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 26.

Chuck Jaffee of Grass Valley likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at

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