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The Fascinating Life of Jane

Por Alice Oziol

16 may 2018


Translated by Sara Sandoval

Speciesism consists in considering animals as inferior species to humans and therefore, when establishing a hierarchy among living beings, we could compare it to any other type of discrimination. However, the struggle for animal rights has gained an increasingly important place in the public debate. There are movements that defend an intersection between feminism and animal rights. In a way, it could be said that Jane Goodall would be, without this being her intention, one of the first women to embody this intersectional struggle.

Jane Goodall –a scientist from London– rebelled against everything that could be expected from an English girl in the late fifties, which basically was to become a mother and an exemplary wife. She also rebelled against a scientific field dominated by men who considered that animals, devoid of human characteristics such as the ability to feel emotions, were not a field of anthropological interest.

Despite this entire context, Jane Goodall went to Tanzania convinced that studying the chimpanzees would allow us to understand some aspects of human evolution and behavior. Her efforts were not in vain, since she was soon accepted by primates, and she discovered that chimpanzees, like humans, used utensils to eat. In the sixties, this discovery revolutionized the scientific conception of animals.

Jane is a film that shows a tender look at the fascinating life of Jane Goodall, as well as a sensitive portrait of her. Her archive images were recorded by Hugo van Lawick, a renowned wildlife documentary filmmaker, who National Geographic sent to the Gombe National Park to film the scientist, and quickly became her husband. From this union, a boy was born; the couple wanted to raise him in the same jungle where they had met. True to her principles, Jane decided to give her son an education inspired by the relationship of a female chimpanzee, Flo, with her offspring, Flint. A relationship that in many ways reminded her of the one she had with her own mother, who accompanied her in her early years in Africa.

Motherhood is a central theme in this documentary directed by Brett Morgen. We could highlight two aspects of this topic: motherhood as a choice –and not an obligation– and motherhood as a common experience to all mammalian females. One more proof of the resemblance between humans and primates revealed by this documentary is the relationship between Flo and Flint. Watching the emotional dependence a chimpanzee can feel towards its mother can demonstrate the primitive nature of our most basic feelings, such as love; and hatred as well, because in the last scenes of the film we witness moments of what Jane Goodall describes as “The War of Four Years” between chimpanzees of the Gombe National Park. All these behaviors make us ask ourselves where the line between the natural and the cultural is, that is, our animal instincts and what we have built as humans.

At age 84, the protagonist of this film masterfully musicalized by Philip Glass, remains an active and influential figure in the struggle for animals rights and the environment.


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