IMDb > Koko, a Talking Gorilla (1978)

Koko, a Talking Gorilla (1978) More at IMDbPro »Koko, le gorille qui parle (original title)

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Release Date:
4 December 1979 (USA) See more »
1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
A candid, thought-provoking, and not always flattering documentary. See more (5 total) »


  (in credits order)
Koko ... Le Gorille
Penny Patterson ... Herself
Saul Kitchener ... Directeur du Zoo de San Francisco
Carl Pribram ... Le professeur de Neuroscience
Roger Fouts ... Le docteur en psychologie

Directed by
Barbet Schroeder 
Produced by
Dale Djerassi .... associate producer
Margaret Ménégoz .... producer
Barbet Schroeder .... associate producer
Original Music by
Guta Cattoni 
Maris Embiricos 
Cinematography by
Néstor Almendros 
Film Editing by
Dominique Auvray 
Denise de Casabianca 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Georges Csicsery .... assistant director
Sound Department
Lee Alexander .... sound
Jonathan Liebling .... foley artist
Camera and Electrical Department
Ned Burgess .... assistant camera
Leslie Otis .... camera operator
Hal Trussell .... gaffer
Editorial Department
Roselyne Petit .... assistant editor

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Koko, le gorille qui parle" - France (original title)
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85 min
Color (Eastmancolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

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22 out of 26 people found the following review useful.
A candid, thought-provoking, and not always flattering documentary., 30 May 2000
Author: Dr. Jeff from Atlanta, Ga

You've probably heard of Koko over the years. Maybe you're seen a PBS special on the internationally famous gorilla or read an article about her. Once considered a controversial experiment in primate communication, Koko now seems practically human when compared to other gorillas in the wild and that is one of the wry points raised in this candid documentary by Barbet Schroeder, a gifted filmmaker.

The day to day instruction and training you see Koko receiving from Dr. Francis "Penny" Patterson in this intimate portrait is not the kid-friendly portrait you'd expect. You get to see Koko on off days when she doesn't want to sign with Penny, when she seems bored and restless with her daily routine, or when she rebels against Penny's authority by engaging in minor destructive acts within her living area. Her home, basically a bland, institutional space with hardly any natural light, is depressing and there are few scenes with Koko enjoying the outdoors freely. Despite Dr. Patterson's assurances that she is making incredible breakthroughs in communication between humans and apes, viewers may get the feeling that Koko is being brainwashed through repetitious instruction. Her only other exposure to gorillas is Michael, a young ape who is also being trained to communicate using American sign language. Is Dr. Patterson raising a new breed of gorillas who will only be able to sign with each other and research scientists in a private facility of Stanford University? Can Koko, who was once housed in the San Francisco Zoo, communicate with apes in the wild or even zoo apes? The real problem is that Koko may not even think of herself as a gorilla anymore. You have to wonder if she might not have been better off at the San Francisco Zoo where she at least would have enjoyed more outside activity, was able to relate to other gorillas, and was free of scientific experimentation.

The most sobering thought you are left with is the current state of gorillas in the wild. Are they better off in zoos or research facilities instead of running free in the wilds where they are fair game for poachers, hunters, and the increasing crush of human progress?

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