Posted July 6, 2011 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in P

Project Nim

Whether by design or coincidence, it is perfect

Whether by design or coincidence, it is perfect timing that award-winning documentary filmmaker James Marsh’s latest film Project Nim should be released in the same week as Rise of the Planet of the Apes because they are almost identical films that add credence to the expression, fact is stranger than fiction.

Made up of talking heads and archival footage from the ’70s and ’80s (plus some clever reconstruction), this doc follows the story of a young chimp, taken from its mother at a young age and placed in a family situation to be raised as if it is human and taught to communicate with sign language, as part of an academic experiment. Being the ‘70s there is a lot of sex and drugs mixed in with the politics of academia, as the chimp they named Nim Chimpsky is passed from one “owner” or carer to another until its human and chimpanzee aspects come into conflict, along with his relationship with his adopted family. As the animal part of his nature takes over as he grows older, and the funding for the research/experiment dries up, it leads to him being caged with handlers who do not understand how to relate with an animal that has been raised with humans.

Of course, the “what if” aspect of Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes the story to a different conclusion, although one the scientists of Project Nim would have like to have seen, minus the uprising, naturally. Bearing in mind that the original Planet of the Apes had already been released when they began their experiment it does make you wonder what they were thinking.

In its own right, it is a fascinating look at some of the excesses (and follies) of academia of the era, that is at times heartbreaking and a little scary, but seen in conjunction with the new sci-fi film, it takes on a whole new aspect.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.