She is an internationally renowned environmentalist, primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace, she is Jane Goodall. Jane’s Journey is a documentary feature that offers a glimpse into the life of the woman who spent 45 years studying wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania, Africa – the woman who founded the Jane Goodall Institute and oversaw the implementation of a global environmental program called “Roots and Shoots” – the woman who travels in excess of 300 days per year (since 1986) to educate young people and spread her inspiring stories and knowledge of our environment. It’s a gorgeous journey that never waivers from its primary message: There is always hope.
Jane’s Journey begins with her as a child as told through narration, over old pictures and videos, about how she became fascinated with wanting to study chimpanzees in the wild. “I fell in love with Tarzan like other girls of 10 or 10 1/2 often do. And what did he do? He married that other wimpy Jane.” It’s this tone that makes Jane Goodall an identifiable figure and subject for the purpose of this documentary. She has a down-to-earth sense of humor that’s only rivaled by her passion for saving the planet and spreading her message of hope.
The film is beautifully made and features some exquisite, breathtaking shots of Gombe National Park and different places around the world while also boasting some magnificent, candid moments of chimpanzee behavior. Jane’s Journey blends old video footage and photographs perfectly with her soothing, rich narration to create a calm and intimate relationship with viewers, enhanced even more by the perfectly composed and selected score by Christian Heyne and Wolfgang Netzer.
As a documentary/biography, some may criticize Jane’s Journey for being purely from Goodall’s point of view, others will enjoy the feature for what it is by title, a documentation of the life and journey of Jane Goodall. The sequence of story at times is a bit disjointed and sporadic but one can imagine that’s how a life traveling 300+ days per year would be, though that’s really no excuse for the lack of detail regarding her true contributions to animal and life science (though there’d likely be no room for such massive amounts of detail in an hour and a half). There’s also the unnecessary inclusion of celebrities Angelina Jolie and Pierce Brosnan, neither of whom serve any purpose but to potentially attract an audience (oddly enough, they receive higher billing than Jane Goodall herself!).
It’s an inspirational tale of an inspirational life, as told by an inspirational woman. It’s especially heartbreaking when images and video footage of dead, mutilated chimpanzees come across the screen and then you witness the conditions Native Americans are living in, in the richest nation in the world. She’s faced trials and tribulations in her treks across the globe but she’s also experienced triumphs, evident by the uplifting montage highlighting the international success of the “Roots and Shoots” program. The entire time, Goodall’s message of hope echoes throughout.
Overall, Jane’s Journey, spares no expense when it comes to production quality or substance even the white subtitles are shaded to pop against the striking, sometimes bright backgrounds. It’s a well-made call to arms for environmentalists (of all ages) everywhere told by one of the world’s most recognizable eco-activists. Jane’s Journey runs 107 minutes and is not rated.
For more information about Jane Goodall, the Jane Goodall Institute or the “Roots and Shoots” program, visit www.janegoodall.org.
Jane’s Journey is one of fifteen documentaries selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Oscar contention.