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Why Dogs Smile & Chimpanzees Cry (1999)

TV Movie  |  Unrated  |   |  Documentary
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 157 users  
Reviews: 10 user | 1 critic

Is it human conceit to attribute emotions to animal actions, or are emotions basic to life on earth? Wildlife filmmakers and scientists make a convincing argument for the latter in this gripping film.


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Title: Why Dogs Smile & Chimpanzees Cry (TV Movie 1999)

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Cast overview:
Herself - Narrator (voice)


Is it human conceit to attribute emotions to animal actions, or are emotions basic to life on earth? Wildlife filmmakers and scientists make a convincing argument for the latter in this gripping film.

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Állati érzelmek: Öröm és bánat  »

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Discovery Channel has hit a new low
27 July 2006 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

First of all, yes, animals have emotions. If you didn't know that already, then I believe you are a moron. But let's assume that none of us are morons. We all know that animals have emotions, and we now want to see how these emotions are manifest in nature, correct?

What we get instead is a tedious and ridiculously simplistic documentary that attempts to show how animals are "human". The filmmakers search high & low for footage of animals engaged in human-like behaviour, and when it happens they say, "That monkey is almost human!" (that's actually a direct quote).

Everything is in human terms. They waste time theorizing about what makes dogs "smile", but not once do they mention what a wagging tail means. The arrogance of these researchers is disgusting. They even go so far as to show chimpanzees dressed in human clothing and wearing a cowboy hat.

I had been expecting an insightful documentary of animals on their own terms. I wanted to learn how animals emote in their OWN languages. But instead, researchers keep falling back on pedantic, anthropomorphic observations and assumptions. Add a cheezy soundtrack and images of chimps "celebrating Christmas", and this was enough to turn my stomach.

But it doesn't end there. Half of this documentary is filmed not in the wild but in laboratories and experimental facilities. All the camera shots of chimps are through steel bars, and we see how these monkeys are crowded together in their sterile concrete cages. One particularly sobering moment happens near the beginning (though you have to be quick to notice it) where a captive monkey says in sign language, "Want out. Hurry go."

Obscure references are made to "stress tests" and psychological experiments which I shudder to imagine. Baby monkeys are separated from their mothers at birth and are given wireframe dolls in order to prove that baby monkeys crave a "mother figure". And after 40 years of experiments, the smug researchers pat themselves on the back for reaching their brilliant conclusion: monkeys have emotions.

One chimp named "Washoe" has been in a concrete cage since 1966 for that purpose, and to this day she remains thus. We get a brief glimpse (again through bars) of her leaning against a concrete wall with a rather lackluster expression. Personally, I don't need to see any further experimental data. Washoe, I apologize for our entire species.

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