Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1988. Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., The Guber-Peters Company. Story by Anna Hamilton Phelan, Tab Murphy, Screenplay by Anna Hamilton Phelan, based on the article by Harold T.P. Hayes, and the work of Dian Fossey. Cinematography by John Seale. Produced by Terence A. Clegg, Arne Glimcher. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by John Graysmark. Costume Design by Catherine Leterrier. Film Editing by Stuart Baird. Academy Awards 1988. Golden Globe Awards 1988. National Board of Review Awards 1988.
This fascinating film follows Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver) through her career from her early days as a woman who was looking for work that would allow her to follow her passion. She hits upon an opportunity when she joins a research expedition to study a vanishing race of mountain gorillas in Kenya and, soon after, sets up shop at her mountaintop lab (the filmmakers used Fossey’s real-life headquarters). She falls in love with her work studying and befriending the primates, going to all lengths to protect them from human greed and native poaching. Thanks to having this uncompromising woman playing the role of such an uncompromising woman, the more unlikable aspects of Fossey’s character are brought to life with strength and intelligence: you might not love all her methods, but you will admire her bravery the whole way. Many of the gorillas that Weaver interacts closely with were created by makeup genius Rick Baker, though there are real ones in many of the shots as well, most of whom still live in the same place where Fossey worked with them and possibly remembered her during shooting. Kenya looks terrific, and Michael Apted’s direction is superb.