May 19, 2020  (Web Review)

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

(2019) 82 min. DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $34.95 ($349 w/PPR from Kino Lorber.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

In 1956 Anne Innis Dagg became one of the first individuals to observe and study animals in the wild, predating Jane Goodall. Anne’s love for giraffes started as a child when she visited the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. At college, Anne discovered a lack of information about giraffes, so after graduation, Anne headed to South Africa to learn more about these tall creatures. She was just 23 years old. Ann secured a place to stay with Alex Matthews on his large ranch Fleur de Lys near Hoedsprit; the ranch had over 200 giraffes and Anne spent a year observing these creatures with their long black tongues, unusual gait, and curious natures. Anne made detailed notes on animal behavior and she and Alex filmed her adventures in the wild. After Anne returned to Canada, she earned a Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Waterloo; she secured an academic position at the University of Guelph and published widely in notable zoology journals, but was denied tenure from an all-male committee. For seven years Anne pursued rights for women in academia and continued to write and publish. At age 86 Anne looks back over her life and career. She tells how she was surprised to be recognized late in life for her work on giraffes with the Anne Dagg Pioneer Award; at the conference held at the Brookfield Zoo, she meets many young zoologists and conservationists who tell her that her textbook The Giraffe was essential reading. Anne makes another trip to South Africa and discovers there are only a few habitats left for giraffes and that many giraffes have been killed for bushmeat. This intergenerational film by Alison Reid tells the story of a courageous woman in an entertaining way by weaving photos, film clips, and letters from Annes’ year spent in Africa with contemporary conversations about her fight over discrimination and her turn to academic writing. Recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (T. Root)