Monday, April 30, 2012
Watching a giant chimpanzee named Freddie groom his tiny son, Oscar, is one of the highlights of the Disney nature film "Chimpanzee." By unfolding each section of hair, Freddie thoroughly looks for fleas and ticks on Oscar. Grooming holds this family of primates together.
"Chimpanzee politics are nicer than ours," primatologist Jane Goodall, 78, said to Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" after she forced Stewart to give her a formal chimpanzee greeting. He touched the top of his head as she made a certain movement. They exchanged squeaks, grunts, oooohs and ahhs and only then would Goodall sit for her interview.
"I was glad to see you remembered that greeting which I taught you the last time we met," she said with a twinkle in her beautiful frail blue eyes. Her white hair reminds viewers just how long she has loved, cared for and protected the chimpanzee. The species is down to 300,000 from 1 million.
At the age of 26, in 1960, Goodall went from England to Tanzania with only binoculars and a notebook to learn about and to protect the chimpanzee and their sometime strange but often familiar-seeming lives. With her unyielding patience and characteristic optimism she won the trust of these initially shy creatures. Goodall learned that chimpanzees hunt for bush pigs and rodents and refined the theory that chimps were primarily vegetarians and fruit eaters.
Upon hearing of her observations, her mentor Richard Leaky blurted out, "Now we must redefine tool, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as human." Proceeds from the first week of "Chimpanzee" will go to the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania.
The movie was filmed in the lush vegetation of the Ivory Coast. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, "Chimpanzee" is a splendid film largely due to its photography. The shots of these animals embracing each other, foraging for food, looking for shelter or climbing up trees to go to sleep is not only educational, it is charming.
Freddie is the leader and father of Oscar. His mother has been lost in the jungle in a skirmish with another team of competing chimps headed by a frightening leader named Scar. She could have been eaten by leopards, but this you do not see. Only thunderous clouds imply impending doom.
Now Freddie battles Scar in jungle warfare over the territory of the nut grove. Suddenly an orphan, Oscar begins following Freddie who has more important things to do than to feed and to care for his 3-year-old son and to assume the role of Oscar's mother.
Footage of her breast feeding a tiny Oscar is touching especially when you realize her breast will no longer be there for orphan Oscar who does not know how to feed himself. He will starve to death in the jungle unless Freddie adopts him, feeds him and teaches Oscar how to open nuts.
Oscar tries by slamming a log repeatedly on a nut, but then watches Freddie who uses a big rock. Tiny Oscar steals Freddie's rock and voila! -- the case is cracked.