THE WOMAN WHO LOVES GIRAFFES
(director/writer: Alison Reid; cinematographers: Lainie Knox/Iris Ng/Dale Hildebrand; editors: Mark Arcieri/Mike Munn/Caroline Christie; music: Tom Third; cast: Anne Innis Dagg, Tatiana Maslany, Victor Garber; Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Joanne Jackson/Alison Reid; Zeitgeist Films; 2018)
“Inspirational biopic documentary on the Canadian zoologist Dr. Anne Innis Dagg.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
First-time feature-film director, stunt coordinator-turned-filmmaker, Alison Reid, is the writer-director of this inspirational biopic documentary on the Canadian zoologist Dr. Anne Innis Dagg, who is known for her study on giraffes (the tallest creatures in the world, whose legs are six feet tall). Unfortunately she did not until recently receive the proper respect for her work due to sexism. The aim of Reid’s sympathetic film is to make sure she is appreciated today for her pioneering work and that the sexism that plagued her doesn’t carry over to other female scientists.
In 1956, the 23-year-old Anne Innis, encouraged by her free-spirited professor mom, ventured alone to South Africa to study giraffes in their natural environment (this was prior to Jane Goodall studying chimpanzees and Dian Fossey studying mountain gorillas). The documentary lets the now 85-year-old Anne tell her story, as she retraces her steps from back then with letters, interviews with talking heads and conservationists, and her amazing original 16mm film footage. She tells us what she learned studying giraffes at that time and the dangers for survival in the wild now faced by them.
Dr. Dagg is now considered the world’s first ‘giraffologist’, whose research findings were questioned only because she was a woman (whereby institutions denied her study grants just on their bias and thereby froze her out of the field and made it not possible for her to return to Africa until 30 years later). But ultimately, with the help of her science professor husband, Dr. Ian Dagg, she overcame the sexist bias of those narrow-minded scientific institutions and her research became recognized by scientists as the foundation for studying giraffes.
After leaving Africa the next year, in 1957, the zoologist was unable to get a post at any wildlife preserve with giraffes. In 1972, at the University of Guelph she gets denied tenure as a zoology assistant professor only because of her sex. It leads to her turning into a feminist activist, dedicating her life to fighting for women’s rights. As recently as 1979 she was in court fighting unsuccessfully against misogyny in Canada’s academic world.
At last, recognition came from fellow researchers, who hailed her research book as the gold standard of the field. The feisty zoologist is seen on camera teary-eyed but proud she overcame such bigotry and that her life-time of research is out there to help the giraffes and that her story can inspire other women fighting sexism.
REVIEWED ON 1/24/2020 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/