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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Jane's Journey
Directed by Lorenz Knauer
First Run Features 09/11 Documentary
Not Rated

Jane Goodall is the world's leading figure in animal research and wildlife conservation. Her pioneering study of chimpanzee behavior in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania transformed our perceptions of the relationship between humans and animals. This work continues today, more than 50 years after she first set foot in the area at age 26, now under the leadership of the Jane Goodall Institute. In addition, her Roots & Shoots program promotes environmental awareness and community involvement of young people, senior citizens, and prisoners in 120 countries through education and hands-on-activities.

In Jane's Journey, German documentary filmmaker Lorenz Knauer has fashioned an engrossing and multidimensional portrait of this extraordinary woman whose commitment and passion for animals and the good Earth makes her one of the genuine heroes of our time. He presents an up-close encounter with Goodall's public and private lives using rare photographs and film footage from her carefree childhood in England to her years of solitary research observing the chimpanzees of Gombe to her decision 25 years ago to take on a very public role and do the great work of saving the planet. Now 77 years old, she spends an average of 300 days a year traveling around the world giving lectures, checking in with people involved with her Roots & Shoots programs, signing books in stores, meeting with activists and philantropists like Angelina Jolie, and consulting with world leaders such as Kofe Annan of the United Nations as a U.N. Ambassador of Peace.

We learn about Goodall's marriages and her continuously evolving relationship with her son Hugo. We hear her high praise for Louis Leakey who believed women were better observers of wildlife because of their patience and gave her a chance to do what she wanted most. We sense the magic and mystery she feels in the presence of wild chimpanzees with their distinctive minds, moods, and feelings.

Goodall's sister points out that she is totally consumed by her work on behalf of interspecies community and mending the broken planet. She describes her mission simply: "My mission is giving people hope." She travels to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the suicide capital of the U.S., to Greenland to see the effects of global warming on the ice pack, and to elsewhere — anywhere that her message needs to be heard.

People are astonished to find that she takes no vacations and even uses her holidays to catch up on odds-and-ends. In this regard Goodall is similar to another global leader. Late in Mahatma Gandhi's life a Western journalist asked, "'Mr. Gandhi, you've been working fifteen hours a day for fifty years. Don't you ever feel like taking a few weeks off and going for a vacation?" Gandhi laughed and said, "Why? I am always on vacation."

Goodall, like Gandhi, believes that full effort is the only way to go. The result is a joy and inner contentment that cannot be matched or ever taken away. Don't miss Jane's Journey! It is one of the best documentaries of 2011 and a beacon of light for all who see our times as a very dark and hopeless period of history.

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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Related Content

• On September 27, 2011, Jane Goodall will appear live from Fathom Events on hundreds of movie theater screens for a rare event that will include interaction with theater audiences and the screening of the Jane's Journey. To find a theater near you and to purchase tickets, visist

• Visit the website of the Jane Goodall Institute to read about their work and to see Jane's schedule.

• Read our review of The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for the Animals We Love by Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff.

• Affirm the Ten Trusts:
1. Rejoice that we are part of the Animal Kingdom.
2. Respect all life.
3. Open our minds, in humility, to animals and learn from them.
4. Teach our children to respect and love nature.
5. Be wise stewards of life on earth.
6. Value and help preserve the sounds of nature.
7. Refrain from harming life in order to learn about it.
8. Have the courage of our convictions.
9. Praise and help those who work for animals and the natural world.
10. Act knowing we are not alone and live with hope.