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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

SpIFF 2020: ‘The Woman Who Loves Giraffes’


Looking ahead to some of the films that will screen at the 2020 Spokane International Film Festival:

One of the most memorable interviews I conducted over the years that I worked as a features writer for The Spokesman-Review was with Jane Goodall, the noted researcher on chimpanzees. I recall nothing about the phone call, except that I was — as I often was with celebrities — star-struck.

It was because of Goodall that I was particularly interested in screening the documentary feature "The Woman Who Loves Giraffes." Like Goodall, Ann Dagg was a young (23) woman who traveled to Africa (alone) in 1956 to do four years of field research. Her subject, though, was giraffes.

In her film, writer-director Alison Reid documents the Canadian-born Dagg's work — which began four years before Goodall's — using a lot of archival footage mixed with contemporary interviews. And instead of being merely a tribute to Dagg, which would in itself be well deserved, the film explores some of the reasons why Dagg never received the credit she was due.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that a large part of the problem involved sexism. Despite being published widely, Dagg couldn't get hired as a tenured professor because she was — get this — a married woman.

Still, "The Woman Who Loves Giraffes" is an uplifting film. Dagg endured, and Reid has made sure that — though late — due credit is coming her way. And for more than one reason.

"The Woman Who Loves Giraffes" screens at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Magic Lantern Theater. SpIFF 2020 runs from Feb. 28 through March 6. To purchase tickets, click here.

Personal disclaimer: I serve as a volunteer programmer for the Spokane International Film Festival, and I am an unpaid member of the festival's board of directors. I've attended every festival, as either a reporter or as a fan, since its inception in 1999.

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