Today: February 28, 2024

Project Nim DVD

We like to think we are and have always been, a nation who love animals and that this love stretches worldwide. We enjoy a trip to the zoo, we revel in the quirky behaviour of animals on television and the internet and we open our homes to all manner of pets.

We like to think we
are and have always been, a nation who love animals and that this love
stretches worldwide. We enjoy a
trip to the zoo, we revel in the quirky behaviour of animals on television and
the internet and we open our homes to all manner of pets.

But has our fascination of animals gone too far? Are we doing a disservice to our fellow
beings by caging them and humanising them? Project Nim is a
documentary which examines this concept, brought to us by James Marsh, the director of the Oscar-winning, Man on Wire. It tells the story of Nim, a chimpanzee at the centre of a
scientific experiment in the 1970s.
The experiment sought to examine the Nature vs. Nurture hypothesis,
attempting to determine if an ape could communicate with humans through sign
language if raised like a human.

Nim was born at the Primate Centre in Oklahoma, immediately
removed from his mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in
their home in New York. The film tells
Nim’s story by examining each of his scientific teachers and carers in
turn. Their very characters are
brought in to question through their relationship with Nim. The film looks first at the woman who
was chosen to be his mother, a woman who can only be described as disturbingly
eccentric. No discipline was
instilled in Nim’s ‘childhood’ as it would be with a human child and so the
experiment was flawed from the start.
She admits herself that she ‘wasn’t prepared at all for the wild animal
in him and the drive.’

We then go on to learn about each of the other people
responsible for Nim throughout his life as he is passed from pillar to
post. Some of these people leave
you gaping in shock with their ignorance and naivety, while some leave you
relieved that there are at least a few who formed an emotional bond with Nim
and had his best interests at heart.
Indeed all of Nim’s carers have strong opinions about one another and
their actions in the project and voice their thoughts on the experiment as a
whole: ‘You can’t give human
nurturing to an animal that can kill you.’

There is no denying that Nim himself makes you smile as he
is incredibly endearing but Project Nim is not a sentimental documentary. The film does leave you in awe at the
intelligence of these animals and is at times humorous with Nim’s quirky antics. However, this film is at many points
disturbing to watch and forces us to reflect on ourselves as human beings. One of Nim’s carers states in the film
that ‘chimps are very forgiving.’
Indeed they are, as one has to wonder whether a human being would be so
forgiving having been forced in to the turbulent life that Nim had to
endure.

A painful and insightful documentary, Project Nim examines the
moral implications of humanising a wild animal and accentuates the massive
difference in meaning of the words human and humane.

Misha Wallace - Social Media Editor

From the age of 4, Misha Wallace became transfixed by movies like Halloween and The Birds from behind the couch, unbeknownst to her family. This has developed in to an obsession with fantasy and horror films (and a considerable number of cheesy 80s and 90s flicks – but she will not be judged). If she was a character in a film she'd be the girl at the end of a horror movie, doused in blood but grinning victorious. Email: misha.wallace@filmjuice.com or find her any time of the day or night on FilmJuice social media.

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