Recently on Twitter, a user asked their followers to name the best documentaries of the decade. Instead, I named three notable documentarians who have produced excellent work. One of those mentioned filmmakers was Brett Morgen. Morgen has made one of the best docs about Hollywood history (The Kid Stays in the Picture), one of the best docs about music history (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck), and with his latest project Jane, he’s made one of the best docs about nature.
In the 1960s, before she established herself as a worthy primatologist, an inexperienced 26-year-old Jane Goodall embarked on a mission (on behalf of her boss, Dr. Louis Leakey) to document chimpanzees in Gombe. She made groundbreaking discoveries while photographer Hugo van Lawick captured breathtaking evidence. Over 100 hours of footage was recorded on this expedition, but it was deemed to be lost until it was rediscovered in 2014. Morgen and his Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck editor Joe Beshenkovsky package these findings into a swift experience that delivers an eye-opening account of how wildlife behaviour mimics human logic, and a special reflection of Goodall’s achievements. It’s also important to note the range of Philip Glass’ score. The musician perfectly matches Goodall’s heartfelt admiration along with the epic feeling of a discovery and the panic of unpredictability.
Jane uses a modern interview between Morgen and Goodall to provide context to the featured clips in the documentary. She talks about the long-running trip and how she built trust with her subjects, but she also reminisces about meeting Hugo van Lawick and how their relationship grew. During these more intimate details, the audience observes a pivotal transition in the doc as Goodall’s observations mirror more personal matters, such as romance and family.
Jane is a film audiences will naturally connect to and love. Brett Morgen continues to prove, exactly, why he’s one of the best documentarians in the business.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie