Project Nim (2011)
Starring Nim, Herbert Terrace, Stephanie Lafarge, Jenny Lee, Laura-Ann Petitto, Joyce Butler, Bill Tynan, Renee Falitz, Bob Ingersoll, James Mahoney
Directed by James Marsh
Expectations: Moderate. The premise sounds interesting.
Is it nature or nurture? A long-standing question of existence, are we human simply because we are raised human, or could other species live in similar ways given the tools to do so. In 1973, one scientist set out to find the answer to this question by taking a newborn chimpanzee from his natural mother and placing him in a human home. The surrogate family then hoped to raise the chimp as another member of the family, attempting to teach the chimp sign language to see if he possessed the capacity for language that human’s have and if the chimp’s wild nature was only a product of his chimp upbringing.
For those that have seen the documentaries about Koko the gorilla (such as 1978’s Koko: A Talking Gorilla), who was also taught sign language, some of Nim’s story arch will be very familiar. But where Koko has continued living her scientific and sheltered life with her teacher Penny, Nim’s journey takes a decidedly different and much more upsetting path. Consequently the film is much more than it seems to be on the surface, and it examines multiple aspects and live paths of captive animals.