This film casts a forensic observational eye over researchers working with primates. After a time watching it is possible to wonder which ones of these two sets of primates is the more strange.

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This film casts a forensic observational eye over researchers working with primates. After a time watching it is possible to wonder which ones of these two sets of primates is the more strange.

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independent film | See All (1) »

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5 December 1974 (USA)  »

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Primat  »

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A Question of Ethics or an Education in Scientific Studies on Animals? or Both?
10 September 2006 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

In this film the direct cinema legend, Frederick Wiseman, visits and observes the daily activities that take place at the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. "Scientists in the film are concerned with studying the physical and mental development of primates. Some of the experimental work shown in the film deals with the capacity to learn, remember, and apply language and manual skills; the effect of alcohol and drugs on behavior; the control of aggressive and sexual behavior; and other neural and physiological determinants of behavior." (from www.zipporah.com) Wiseman begins by showing us the great apes- orangutans and chimpanzees- that are caged in prison like cells, often looking saddened and depressed. Most of the reviews I have read on this film focus on the goals and accomplishments that the scientists have achieved by studying these monkeys and apes. Watching this, I personally feel that Wiseman is attempting to make us question the ethics of this practice. Animal studies, especially those on primates that are genetically similar to ourselves, have become (for the most part) an accepted and ignored element of society. It is believed that the benefits of such a practice far outweigh the gains, but some of the images in this film make you question this. This is what I believe that Wiseman was trying to achieve- similar to his portrayal of the Bridgewater Mental Facility in his film "Titticut Follies". Many images in this film are disturbing...just a warning. This could be viewed as much of an animal rights documentary as could "Meat", but can also be seen as the observation of justified scientific studies on primates. I guess it depends on how you look at it, but regardless of this, Wiseman's editing is not unbiased. The mere selectivity of images and order of their juxtaposition is used to convey his message despite the observational/direct cinema nature of the film. Another winner by Wiseman.


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