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Jean François Heckel,
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From the Oscar-winning team behind MAN ON WIRE comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Following Nim's extraordinary journey through human society, and the enduring impact he makes on the people he meets along the way, the film is an unflinching and unsentimental biography of an animal we tried to make human. What we learn about his true nature - and indeed our own - is comic, revealing and profoundly unsettling. Written by
A project to produce a linguistically capable chimp instead produces an ironic view of humanity
OK, so the idea going in to this film is we take a a baby chimp and test the nature versus nurture theory. Trying to see if we can "correct" their deficiency in human communication, if you will...
What instead results is indeed a spectacle to witness. Nim is indeed a remarkable chimp who was sadly the victim of human inexperience with supplying the type of care he needed and deserved. What we learn is not what a chimpanzee is lacking, but what humanity is.
I suggest watching the film with a mind towards what Nim himself must be thinking as you see his life unfold. Nim lives a chimpanzee's analog to a human life, but for a chimp, it is utterly horrifying to watch. But like any life, there are more lighthearted moments as well, such as Nim and his friend Bob with their "Stone." "Smoke." "Now." time together, which actually seemed to be Nim's best time with any humans.
All in all, this documentary of Nim's life serves as a reminder that mother nature made chimpanzees and humans their own devices for communicating and living separately. The two cannot co-exist peacefully within one habitat due to the gap in strength and cognitive intelligence. However this one chimp, Nim, came remarkably close to peaceful co-habitation and viable communication with humans and his cost for such was great.
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