Project Nim
2011
****
Director: James Marsh
Cast:

In 1973 a Columbia University Professor Herb Terrace commenced an ambitious study to determine whether primates could learn to communicate. The plan was to raise a baby chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky in a human family where it would be taught sign language. As the months and years passed, this pseudo-scientific project took increasingly absurd turns and, at the centre of it all, the chimp was first treated like a family member and then like a lab rat. Was Nim an anthropomorphic miracle or a wild beast? By the end it probably didn’t know what it was itself. James Marsh’s fascinating documentary, which is a good companion piece to Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, is a sad portrayal of the corrupt nature of humanity. The story is visualised through interviews, archive footage and dramatisation, very much like Marsh’s previous film, Man on Wire. Based on the book Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess.