Jane’s journey an inspiration

Beloved Dr. Goodall hits city for lecture

To the casual observer a woman who’s already been the subject of a half-dozen documentaries over the past 20-odd years would hardly have cried out for another. But Dr. Jane Goodall is no ordinary woman and Lorenz Knauer was no casual observer of her work. It may have been well-tilled ground but the German filmmaker was determined to make another film about the legendary British primatologist. Considerably more determined at the outset than Goodall herself.

“I’ve been involved in many documentary films and I wasn’t really happy to do any more because it’s time-consuming and so forth” Goodall says. “At first I said ‘no’ absolutely I was not interested. But Lorenz is very persuasive. I understood that what he really wanted to do was to help me get out the message I’m travelling around the world sharing with people.”

Goodall will be in Banff for a screening of the documentary at The Banff Centre followed by a stop in Calgary to deliver a lecture on her work at the Jubilee Auditorium.

Although it’s received mixed reviews Jane’s Journey which features interviews with Goodall and people close to her as well as footage from her travels seems to have succeeded in spreading her call for a better planet. Goodall recalls how after a screening in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates some audience members decided to form local branches of Roots & Shoots the Jane Goodall Institute’s youth environmental and humanitarian program before even leaving the theatre.

“The message is ‘every single one of us makes a difference every single day’” she says of the film “and we have a choice as to what kind of difference we make.”

Heartening as reactions such as those from Abu Dhabi may be Goodall is aware success doesn’t always come easily. The film captures her trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota the poorest reservation in the U.S. where establishing a Roots & Shoots chapter was a much harder sell. But the founders worked to overcome the residents’ initial distrust and have since come a long way from the small community garden they’re shown creating in the film.

“That one little community garden has turned into 13 big ones with whole areas for native plants” Goodall says. “It’s restored a bond between the elders and the youth so the elders are teaching the children the old uses of these plants: medicinal for food. We’ve got Roots & Shoots in the schools a couple of the Roots & Shoots kids have actually gone to university and all sorts of initiatives have sprung from the Roots & Shoots program.”

Roots & Shoots of course has only been one stop on Goodall’s journey. She’s best known for her study of chimpanzees at Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park a project she embarked on over 50 years ago despite having no formal scientific training. She’s since earned a PhD from Cambridge written or co-written over 15 books and become a Dame of the British Empire. But no previous films have covered as much of her life as Jane’s Journey which she says made for a moving and somewhat odd viewing experience.

“It was strange to sit and look at my life unrolled like that” she says. “It’s been in bits and pieces before.”

So is it the documentary to end all documentaries about her? Goodall’s pretty sure it will be though she says she’d still participate in any that focused on the work of her institute or Roots & Shoots. And the making of Jane’s Journey probably yielded enough surplus footage to create a second film.

“There was an awful awful lot not covered in this documentary” she says. “Some that we did film couldn’t go in because already it’s if anything on the long side.”

And despite her initial reluctance to participate Goodall has fond memories of her involvement with the film. Working with an atypically small crew due to financial constraints was hard she acknowledges but seeing the results is rewarding.

“When I look at it I just get this feeling of the sort of family that we became in the making of the film and that adds a special touch for me.”