When wildlife film-maker Baron Hugo van Lawick wed pioneering chimpanzee conservationist Jane Goodall, the English rose he discovered in the African jungle, one headline told the tale: Me Hugo, You Jane.
The couple fell in love in the early Sixties, at the chimp observation station she had set up in Gombe, Tanzania.
On location for National Geographic magazine, Hugo shot more than 100 hours of footage, though his lens lingered longest on the girl who captivated him.
TV Picks for Monday, March 12, include Jane Goodall documentary and Spring Baking Championship
Dame Jane Goodall (pictured) rewrote the way scientists perceive animals. She proved that wild chimpanzees make and use tools, and provided compelling evidence that their personalities are as diverse, and their emotions as deep
Was she forthcoming when you first approached her about the documentary?BM: To me, documentary filmmaking is a collaboration between the subject and the filmmaker. It’s very difficult to tell someone’s story who doesn’t want their story told. Jane really didn’t have any interest in having this story told. She felt that she had told it before, that there was nothing left to unearth in this old footage, and that as a result, she really didn’t want to be bothered, that she has much more important things to do with her life, and so she agreed to do a two-day interview and that was it. Now, when you see the film, I think one of the things that comes through is how honest she is and there’s no pretense to her at all. She’s not selling us anything and I think that’s part of contributing to the success of the film is her candor and her honesty. I mean, we really believe her, as we should, because Jane, when I sat down to do the interview, she was great in the sense that I could ask her any question, but she was awful in terms of giving me—at that point, I had already edited the film, I knew exactly what I wanted, and she wasn’t necessarily making my life easy. But I love her for it and it made the film better.
Rediscovered in 2014, a dozen years after Hugos death, that film supplied almost all the material for Jane (National Geographic Channel), a superlative study of the woman herself and her work.
Its no exaggeration to say that Dame Jane Goodall rewrote the way scientists perceive animals. She proved that wild chimpanzees make and use tools, and provided compelling evidence that their personalities are as diverse, and their emotions as deep, as our own.
After watching the film, I felt here is a person who understood “the dream” and got it. Some people live their life never getting “the dream.” BM: Oh, Jane has lived one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century. I mean, when we think about Jane’s life, it’s like a dream. When I die, I want to see Jane’s life flash before my eyes. I’ll be thrilled to go out that way. Well, she’s definitely living in a dream and you see that in the film. The way that Gambia is presented is not through my eyes; it’s through her eyes. There’s an element of magical realism that we introduce to the film. It comes in several ways: through the way the film was colorized, we choreographed all of the chimpanzee movements to Philip Glasss music, we pitched the vocalization of Philip’s music. So everything is sort of moving harmoniously, and the idea was to further this idea that Jane is in a dream, and yeah, it’s amazing.
She supplied the voiceover for the documentary herself, evoking her own innocence when she first arrived in Gombe in 1960 to study chimps, with no degree or formal training, and only her mother for a companion. Suddenly I found I was living my childhood dream, she said, describing how nothing, not even the poisonous snakes, frightened her. I had this probably crazy feeling: nothings going to hurt me, Im meant to be here.
Jane was the first naturalist to understand how chimps live in extended hierarchies, and to observe them raising young.
The beautiful, colour-saturated footage was shot on assignment by Dutch wildlife photographer Hugo van Lawick, who would later become Goodalls husband. It provided the magical element of Morgens film which, as the story unfolded, brought the chimps to vivid life and showed Goodall becoming a mother herself. There were painful moments, too, as Lawick filmed the destructive polio outbreak among the chimps.
The animals treated her as part of the group, even playing and letting her groom them. She began to call herself a strange white ape, and gave her friends decidedly Beatrix Potter-type names — David Greybeard, Mr MacGregor, Flo and her babies, Fifi and Flint.
A battered violin that had survived Auschwitz concentration camp looked beyond saving on The Repair Shop (BBC2). But when it was restored, the tune it played made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.