Monday, 8 August 2011

film review: project nim

this film is excellent - go and see it, but be warned: you may well weep...

In 1967, The Jungle Book’s King Louie sang “an ape like me, can learn to be human too”. Six years later, Professor Herb Terrace indirectly put Louie’s proposal to the test, placing a baby chimpanzee with a New York family in a bid to teach the primate sign language. The ape was named Nim Chimpsky (after the linguist whose hypotheses the experiment was designed to test), and his story, as told in James Marsh’s unorthodox biopic, is poignant enough to open even the rustiest tear duct. Project Nim details the chimp’s tumultuous life using archive material and interviews with the humans to whom he was closest – the result is stylistically similar to Marsh’s previous documentary Man on Wire. Nim’s journey is profoundly moving, beginning with a bohemian Manhattan infancy, through idyllic adolescence as a scientific star, to a heart-breaking return to the enclosure in which he was born; and while his story does not end there, this synopsis will, so as not to spoil its impact.

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