An image of Jane and chimpanzee

From Visionary Filmmaker Brett Morgen With an Original Score by World-Renowned Composer Philip Glass, Film Features Captivating, Never-Before-Seen Footage of Conservation Icon Jane Goodall’s Groundbreaking Chimpanzee Research.

Hailed by critics as “breathtaking,” “mesmerising,” “spectacular” and “the best documentary of 2017,” Jane will make its broadcast debut on National Geographic on 25 March at 20:05, and air globally in 172 countries and 43 languages. You can also stream Jane on DStv Now. 

The BAFTA-nominated film, which has been named best documentary of 2017 by 18 national US critics groups, the Producers Guild of America, American Cinema Editors, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the US National Board of Review, is the year’s most celebrated documentary and considered “a triumph of filmmaking.”

Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage shot in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park in the 1960s, the film from award-winning director Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” “The Kid Stays in the Picture) tells the story of Jane Goodall, a young untrained woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionised our understanding of the natural world. 

The film opens in 1960 in Gombe, as Goodall, a 26-year-old British woman driven only by her love for animals, embarks on her first research expedition to study chimpanzees. Patiently gaining the animals’ trust, she soon makes headlines with the discovery that chimps are highly intelligent and social creatures that use tools to gather food. When the dashing Dutch filmmaker Hugo van Lawick is sent by National Geographic to document her work in 1964, filmmaker and subject soon fall in love — but professional commitments, polio outbreaks and violence among the chimps threaten the couple’s idyllic existence.

While much has been shared in film and books about Goodall’s work with chimpanzees, far less is known about the woman herself. Now, as Jane studies the chimps, we study Jane — gaining an intimate look as she falls in love and struggles to balance the demands of marriage and motherhood with her lifelong dream.

“Seeing the film for the first time was incredibly nostalgic; there was something very immediate and real and unconstrained,” said Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace. “JANE shows things as they were, bringing to light people’s characters, especially mine and Hugo’s, in such an intimate way. It took me back to the best days of my life in a way that none of the other documentaries have.”

“The narrative I was interested in first and foremost was this story of female empowerment, particularly in the era that Jane was working in,” said director Brett Morgen. “The film is very much a love story, except the love, is not between man and woman. The love is between a woman and her work.”

The footage, expertly shot by Hugo, was rediscovered in National Geographic’s archives — and while pristine, it was not without its challenges. Reel upon reel of 16 mm film was out of order and without notes or audio, leaving Morgen and his team the daunting tasks of organising the vast archive, identifying 160 chimpanzees and re-creating the sounds of Gombe’s forest. The result is an editing feat that brings the forgotten footage back to life, offering an unprecedented portrait of the trailblazer who defied the odds to become one of the world’s most admired conservationists.

“There have been multiple great documentaries about Jane Goodall’s research and her life, but this rediscovered material showed a side of Jane I’d never seen before,” says Bryan Burk, producer. “By showing her early travels to Africa and her initial interactions with the chimpanzees, along with insights into her private life, the footage revealed a future legend at the beginning of her journey.”

Jane first debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews, and has screened at more than 25 film festivals around the world, including the BFI London Film Festival, New York Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Savannah Film Festival and DOC NYC. The film screened to a full house at the Hollywood Bowl this past October alongside a live orchestra, making it the first documentary ever to play at the iconic Los Angeles landmark.