Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Movie Index


Directed by David Lickley (2002, Science North)
Narrated in part by Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall guides a visit to the chimpanzee family that she has studied over the years, and tells of the lessons learned.



3+ stars+

March 20th, 2003 on the IMAX screen

    This was a nice, light-hearted adventure among the chimps. As with other movies about animals, it's quite amazing to see how similar they are to people, and of course, how cute most of them are!

Jane Goodall does a wonderful job of narrating this movie, especially in the early scenes, which read like a diary, or biography. She sits on a mountaintop, which is footage probably from an early biographical study, wondering what she was going to do, as she could hear lots of chimpanzees around, but they would never let her see them. Eventually, of course, she won their confidence, and their friendship.

With the IMAX crew around, we follow a family of chimpanzees, the ones that Jane had named, decades ago. Many of them are still alive, and she has followed their lives as she studied them. Obviously, the researchers have changed the lifestyle of the chimps, as they allow the observations to take place, and occasionally even attempt to play with the humans. Fortunately, humanity doesn't seem to have adversely affected the chimps -at least not the observers, anyway. While habitat destruction has severely affected their range, other families of chimps, who have not had such extreme contact with their observers, appear to be very similar.

Playtime among the chimps was hilarious! They were literally little kids, jumping among each other, climbing trees and launching themselves through the branches. The little ones were so cute, but even the young adults got into it. Grooming was another interesting time -it looked so relaxing!

Of course, there are the bullies in every family. The one who became top chimp -alpha male, is one scary-looking chimpanzee! Frodo is huge, looking more like a gorilla than a chimp. He is a real bully, even disrupting playtime among the young- especially if they are playing with the neighboring gibbons. (As a side note, these male chimps seem to have huge testicles and constant erections -what kind of life do they live?) Jane admits not being surprised, and neither was I, when they discovered that the younger bully in the family had DNA from Frodo -his son.

Jane is not the only one who observes chimpanzees. We met up with a few of the researchers from that team, as they went about their daily work. It's amazing to think that Jane was once the only person living among the chimps, while now there must be a couple of dozen.

Jane also discovered how alike chimpanzees were to humans, forcing scientists and others to redefine humanity. One instance was a war between chimp clans, one of which was wiped out completely. That must have been a really haunting day for Jane. The other is much more uplifting and astonishing -the use of tools. They actually learned to peel the leaves off of tree branches, stick the branches in termite and ant holes, and retrieve their daily feast! It was truly amazing to watch. So much for humanity being defined by our use of tools. Now we know of an assortment of animals that use tools, of course, but that first discovery was monumental.

The movie would not be complete without some wild photography and a cool soundtrack. The music was a rhythmic African beat, very catching, and reminiscent of the great stuff from the alternate Lion King soundtrack, Rhythm of the Pridelands. These beats, combined with the quick movement from tree to tree, followed the crazy playtime of the chimpanzees and the gibbons.

There was also a cool graphic showing the family tree of the monkeys. Obviously done with bluescreen and other enhancements, it was seamless, so that we could really think that all these different types of monkeys were sitting on the same tree. Perhaps the monkeys were fake, too, but I think they were real, just sitting lazily around.

And so this was a lot of fun, sitting around with the chimpanzees. I think we could learn a lot from observing their lifestyle. They looked relatively stress-free, at least when Frodo wasn't around! When they grew up, they still looked cute, which is more than I can say about many of us.

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