The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (2018)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

, 2018Screenplay by Cinematography by , , Produced by , Alison Reid.  Music by Film Editing by , , .

, later Dagg, went to Africa to study giraffes four years before Jane Goodall headed there to study chimpanzees, and yet isn’t as nearly well remembered thanks to having lived a very different life since. As a post-graduate student, Dagg lived on a single man’s farm in South Africa and drove every day out into the gorgeous landscape to study her beloved animals, thankfully for us taking a good deal of beautiful full-colour footage with her camera (which is padded out by subtle recreations that never ruin the experience of this heartfelt documentary). Her return home saw her take up marriage, motherhood and teaching zoology at the University of Guelph that ended when she was denied tenure despite being more than qualified for the job. Losing positions to less qualified men and even being told by one dean that he would never hire a married woman, Dagg turned her focus to gender politics in academics and published a number of books and articles on the subject before the circle of her life brought her back to the curious and charming creatures that had shaped her career from the beginning. Dagg makes a charismatic subject on camera, candid and confident about the biographical details of her life, her general, good-natured restraint making her few moments of emotional vulnerability (particularly the heartbreak of being thwarted in her career, which has never left her) that much more moving. Beautifully photographed and generous to all aspects of her life in a mere eighty minutes of running time, this film is as informative as it is affectionate and, for those of us who are unfamiliar with her work, inspires gratitude.

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