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Documentary gives new glimpse at Jane Goodall’s early research

The 1965 film “Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees” documented the early months of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research on chimpanzees in Africa. Now, unseen footage from the making of that film will appear in the documentary “Jane,” which revisits Goodall’s early years in the field. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker spoke with Jane Goodall and Brett Morgan, the director of the film.

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  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Jane Goodall is best known for her groundbreaking studies of chimpanzees. Her observations in 1960 that they eat meat and make tools, transformed the world's understanding of humankind's closest relative. The photographs, magazine articles and films that followed made Goodall famous.

  • JANE GOODALL:

    You know, I was shy basically, and I wanted to be out in the field. And then this media started coming at me in all directions. And, of course, in the beginning it was kind of pathetic, really, you know, Beauty and the Beast, and Geographic cover girl, and all that kind of stuff. But as soon as I moved into the realization that nature and chimpanzees and all the things I loved needed to be protected. Then it was very obvious that we needed the media. The animals, nature, needs the media.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    In 1962, National Geographic sent photographer Hugo van Lawick to document her current research and reenact for the camera, her earliest months in the field. The resulting 1965 film, Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees, has been seen around the world for decades.

    Three years ago, van Lawick's footage, was rediscovered in a Pennsylvania warehouse. Director Brett Morgen has brought this material to life in the new digitally retouched feature length documentary, Jane.

  • BRETT MORGEN:

    I received a call from National Geographic in early 2015 that they had recently unearthed 140 hours of never before seen footage from Jane's earliest expeditions in Africa. It's interesting, because I am not sure if we should say the footage was lost or it was forgotten about.

  • JANE GOODALL:

    I wasn't expecting to see what I saw. And it moved me in a way that none of the other documentaries have. It seems to be very honest. It's not contrite. It isn't, you know, it isn't sanitized. It's just as it was. And so I'm back there with those chimps.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    The story of Jane Goodall and those chimps starts with her English childhood experience in World War two and the influence of Goodall's mother, Vanne.

  • JANE GOODALL:

    I was just an ordinary little girl, born loving animals, loving nature and I think, you know, the importance of my mother's role is that when everybody else laughed at me when I wanted to go to Africa and live with animals and write books about them. I was ten. Instead of laughing at me she just said, 'If you work hard and take advantage of opportunity and don't give up, you know, you'll get there.'

  • BRETT MORGEN:

    It's a very advanced, mature parent who can recognize that their child needs to be nurtured for who they are and what they have to offer this world. And Vanne clearly understood that in Jane, and as a result we're sitting here today."

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Motherhood also plays an important role in Jane's research with the chimps.

  • JANE GOODALL:

    Well, she was all the things a chimp mother should be. She was protective but not over protective, she was affectionate, she was playful, but being supportive that was the key and of course that's what my mother was. She supported me.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    When she arrived at the Gombe Stream Reserve in what is now Western Tanzania in the summer of 1960, she was a novice, specifically hired by famed paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, who'd been looking for a mind unbiased by scientific theory. But British authorities wouldn't allow then 26-year-old Goodall to go alone. Her mother volunteered to chaperone.

  • JANE GOODALL:

    She actually came with me for the first four months. She was the brave one. She had to be left alone in the camp while I went into the forest. She was left with spiders, scorpions, slightly aggressive baboons, and a slightly inebriated cook.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    When Lawick arrived, to film Goodall's research, what neither of them knew was in addition to the chimps. He'd capture the earliest moments of their love affair.

  • BRETT MORGEN:

    It's a movie about passion, and love, and love for their vocations. And I think every frame of this film is is a testament to Hugo's passion for cinematography and filmmaking, and Jane's passion for her work and the natural world.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    The couple married in 1964 and had a son, but divorced in 1974.

  • BRETT MORGEN:

    It's amazing to have a love story in which at the very end the couple doesn't stay together. Yet, it's a happy ending. Jane and Hugo, I think, have larger purpose on this Earth than their own romantic endeavor, if that's fair to say?

  • JANE GOODALL:

    Probably.

  • BRETT MORGEN:

    Yeah.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    While Goodall's methodology changed the way the world viewed chimpanzees, her nearly 60 year career has not been without controversy. The practice of giving names to the chimpanzees was criticized by scientists and a 2013 book she co-authored had to be reissued after the Washington Post found it included unattributed passages.

    But in 1977, Goodall began shifting her time from science to activism, founding the Jane Goodall Institute, dedicated to environmental education, wildlife conservation, and saving declining primate populations from extinction. While the institute continues the field research that she began 57 years ago, Goodall spends the majority of her time on the road.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    What keeps you getting on those airplanes?

  • JANE GOODALL:

    Well, one, I jump on the airplanes because I have a message to give and because I know it makes a difference. Even as we speak now in some parts of the world that, that they're doing all kinds of projects that are making a difference. We're beginning to use our brain to come up with, with technology that can help us live in greater harmony and to live our lives with a light, ecological footprint.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Do you think a 26-year-old version of yourself in this contemporary world would be able to or inclined to take that same journey that you took?

  • JANE GOODALL:

    I think there's actually quite a lot of young people dying to take that journey. Half the people who are going out in the field, when I meet them they say, "Well, I'm doing this, because I read about you when I was seven or eight," or something like that. Whereas I read about Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Jane premiered in October and is currently playing in select theaters nationwide.

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