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
This is the true story of what happened when a baby chimp, Nim, it taken from his mother and placed with a human family. He is taught sign language by a series of carers before becoming too big and dangerous around the age of 5 at which time he is returned to the ranch he was taken from.
There is a huge amount going on in this documentary as the carers over the years are interviewed with footage from the time. What emerges will probably anger and sadden most viewers. Though I felt that Nim's carers genuinely bonded with him what emerges is a largely a tale of careless cruelty.
Equally interesting and perhaps the root cause of what happens later is the relationships between the humans. Particularly between the project leader Professor Herbert Terrance and the numerous attractive research assistants. There are several references to the power he held and exercised. Overall it has to be said he does not emerge from this film as either likable or particularly competent.
The various approaches of the teachers and carers differ so widely and even though there is much happy footage you have to wonder at the effect this had on Nim. I was left with the feeling that he eventually responded best to the people who recognised him as a chimp but still treated him as a companion within the limits this imposed.
This is a powerful film that should be shown as widely as possible and would probably be good thing to included in school curricular.
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