Project Nim

After seeing the movie poster and promotional stills for this film – who wouldn’t want to go and see it? Nim is just so darn cute! Project Nim was the name of a Columbia University experiment led by psychologist Herbert Terrace seeking to discover how much chimpanzees and humans could communicate through sign language.

This documentary tells you the story of what happened during this period in the 70s, where a bunch of young and inexperienced students and scientists tried to train and raise Nim as their own little child. Personal boundaries were blurred between teacher and student, human and animal. No one really had any idea what they were doing, and as a result, people got hurt – including poor Nim. This is a really simple documentary, that is basically just driven by interviews and tied together with whatever footage and stills they could lay their hands on. There was a lot of re-enactments, and a lot of stock footage of doors closing, and the like, just to fill in the gaps. Although director James Marsh (who also did the Oscar-winning film Man on Wire), did a great job of tying a story together with only a small amount of actual footage to play with – the whole movie, I just felt so sorry for little Nim! He was mistreated at every turn, and I just felt like a lot of heart-ache and injuries could have easily been avoided if some common sense was introduced. This is a really interesting film, with some seriously interesting characters – but it’s a simple documentary, with a very “BBC” feel to it. There was a lot of dull shots throughout the film, just to fill in the spaces left by the interview audio. It’s definitely worth watching – if only to see the adorable Nim cuddling an equally cute kitten.

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