Michael Ward on Friday, May 17
A pleasant and timely documentary from writer/director Alison Reid, The Woman Who Loves Giraffes shows us the life and times of Anne Innis Dagg, who for more than six decades has devoted her life to studying, writing, caring for, and educating about the giraffe. While easy to compare her to Jane Goodall, and her work with the chimpanzee (Goodall is mentioned a couple of times in the film), Dagg is very much a trailblazer who has never quite received the attention or celebrity her counterpart has.
That could potentially change if The Woman Who Loves Giraffes can find an audience in 2019.
Reid takes the biographic approach with her film and Dagg, spirited and engaging in her mid-80s, shares her amazing story.
At 23, she found herself studying the giraffe in South Africa. She earned the opportunity by outsmarting an old boys’ club mentality and becoming the only woman permitted to study the animals, when her application letter was signed with her first name’s initial. Her eventual supervisor, never imagining a woman would be interested in the work, assumed she was a man and hired her.
Throughout the film, Dagg mentions moments where gender politics stunted opportunities and professional growth. With more than 20 years of research and time spent with the giraffe, she became the preeminent expert on the animal, culminating in her 1976 book, The Giraffe: its biology, behavior, and ecology.
At times, the film spins its wheels a bit, but Dagg is such a wonderful and endearing person, it is hard to not stay engaged with the film despite some repetitive beats. One nice component to the film comes in the voiceover work by Tatiana Masley (Orphan Black) , reciting actual letters Dagg sent to both her future husband, Ian, and that aforementioned boss, among others.
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes is precisely that: A film about a woman who has spent nearly her entire adult life committed to the well-being of the giraffe. Her life’s work has redefined how we see these enigmatic animals and she finally, deservedly, gets the spotlight shining on her. An easy recommendation.
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes is playing May 17, May 18, and May 20 at the Seattle International Film Festival.
(Purchase tickets now)