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BMZ Review: Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees
By Herb Lash


Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees Review
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: October 2002


Category: Reviews

The Large Format film JANE GOODALL'S WILD CHIMPANZEES is a meditation on what has been Goodall's life long passion - studying the lives of the chimpanzees at Gombe Park in Tanzania. Because Goodall's work has been so influential in the conservation and appreciation of wild habitats, the film has an immediate aura of historical importance. Jane Goodall's natural sense of self and purpose is luminescent enough to achieve the near impossible - she is almost as captivating as the featured chimps.

Dr. Jane Goodall has never been interested in trotting out chimps to be gawked at in a  TV talk show style. The film gets close to the chimps the same way Goodall did, with a serious minded patience, respect and affection. Archival footage and Goodall's own voice over narration give us an overview of the journey she began as a young woman. We catch up with the present day Goodall as she comes ashore on the gentle beaches of Gombe Park. Old friends are still living out in the wild - among them is Fifi, a baby girl when Goodall first made her acquaintance, now the reigning mother of an extended family of chimps. The film is not an attempt to summarize Goodall's 40 years of study - it is a thoughtful look at some of her more profound insights. Familial relationships, tool making, war making and play making are the foundations of both ape and human societies - the inestimable value of what we learn from these similarities demands that these wild creatures be protected. ! This very good Large Format film will last a long time and should do a great deal to further Goodall's cause - a human cause.

Chimpanzees in the wild are every bit as fascinating as you might expect. They are tender, irreverent, mean, sneaky and each chimp is different - again like people. Frodo is a sort of Archie Bunker in his prime, Fifi is the blessed saint of a mother, teenager Titan is hell on wheels and looking for trouble - just like in any family it is difficult to choose favorites. Goodall was criticized early in her career for giving the chimps she studied proper names - a not so scientific method, but one that made things easier in the field. Her naming of the chimps went on to have a secondary effect - humans around the world felt connected the chimps if they could put a face to the name. And in fact, a 98% DNA similarity proves we are connected by more than just words.

The writing, the balanced use of archival and Large Format footage and finally Goodall's lyrical narration make for a well shaped story. Aesthetically, the subject matter does not scream out for Large Format treatment and there are only a few moments where the Giant Screen canvas is filled out - but the message here deserves to be trumpeted in any and every format.

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