When Jane Goodall went to work for paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey in Tanzania in 1957, her only academic background was secretarial school. But she had spent her childhood developing extraordinary patience and observational skills, especially when it came to the animal world. Leakey recognized her talents and set her to work documenting the behavior of chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream National Park. He also paid for her to obtain a doctorate in Ethology at Cambridge University.
Goodall approached her work with no preconceived notions, and ended up turning the field of primate biology on its head. By sitting quietly in their territory for long periods at predictable times, she managed to gain acceptance into a Gombe chimpanzee troop. At the risk of having her work pooh-poohed as tainted by anthropomorphism, she gave her furry comrades names instead of numbers, and soon discerned in them strong parallels to human behavior patterns and social relationships.
Up until her research, if you asked a scientist what the differences were between humans and other animals, the capacity for intentional toolmaking would always be one of the human-only abilities cited. Then one day, Goodall spied a chimpanzee stripping leaves off a twig and dipping it into a termite mound like a fondue fork. Her photographer husband, Hugo van Lawick, captured the behavior on film, and National Geographic shared it with the world. We have had to think a little differently about primates ever since.
At age 83, Dr. Jane Goodall still travels the world, giving lectures and speeches, advocating and fundraising for wildlife conservation, habitat protection and animal welfare in general – not to mention the creation of sustainable jobs for rural people in Sub-Saharan Africa, so that they won’t need to poach or trap endangered “bushmeat” species just to get by. In addition to the Jane Goodall Institute, she founded an organization called Roots & Shoots that provides volunteerism opportunities for idealistic young people.
Now, 60 years into Goodall’s career, a new documentary film has been made by acclaimed director Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, The Kid Stays in the Picture), incorporating excerpts from more than 100 hours of footage newly unearthed from the National Geographic’s vaults. Minimalist icon Philip Glass composed the score.
If you missed the initial run of Jane, you’ll get another chance this week: The Rosendale Theatre will be screening it at 7:15 p.m. from Friday through Monday, January 19 to 22, and again on Thursday, January 25, plus matinées at 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 21 and at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, January 24. The documentary will also be screening at TSL in Hudson on Saturday, January 20 at 6:45 p.m. and Sunday, January 21 at 5:45 p.m. Jane will be shown as well at Upstate Films in Woodstock on Saturday and Sunday, January 20 and 21, at 5:15 p.m. Upstate Films Woodstock is located at 132 Tinker Street. For more information, visit http://upstatefilms.org.. TSL is located at 434 Columbia Street in Hudson. For more information, visit http://timeandspace.org. The Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street (Route 213) in Rosendale. For more info, call (845) 658-8989 or visit www.rosendaletheatre.org.
Take the kids, and check out the study guide at http://on.natgeo.com/2rd8LxI for discussion prompts.