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Koko: A Talking Gorilla (The Criterion Collection)

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Editorial Reviews

In 1977, acclaimed director Barbet Schroeder and cinematographer Nestor Almendros entered the universe of the world’s most famous primate, to create the captivating documentary Koko: A Talking Gorilla. The film introduces us to the remarkable Koko at the age of three, recently brought from the San Francisco Zoo to Stanford University by Dr. Penny Patterson for a controversial experiment—she would be taught the basics of human communication through American sign language. An entertaining, troubling, and still relevant documentary, Koko: A Talking Gorilla sheds light on the ongoing ethical and philosophical debates over the individual rights of animals and brings us face to face with the amazing "individual" caught in the middle.


Special Features

  • New, restored digital transfer supervised and approved by director Barbet Schroeder
  • New video interview with Schroeder
  • Alternate French-language audio track with optional English subtitles
  • Booklet with a new essay by critic Gary Indiana and an homage to Koko from Marguerite Duras

Product Details

  • Actors: Koko (III), Penny Patterson, Saul Kitchener, Carl Pribram, Roger Fouts
  • Directors: Barbet Schroeder
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FILVNW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,263 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Pam on March 15, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
One word! Awesome! KoKo changes our view about Gorillas. Koko's emotions seem almost human. I found myself laughing and crying, but most of all unable to move from my seat. The scene after KoKo is told about the kitten is heartbreaking, and should make everyone look at animals, especially Gorillas differently. I will never look at a gorilla at the zoo in the same manner. It just makes me sad to think about these incredible, intelligent, gentle, but yet so fierce and wild animals.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Kimsey on December 30, 2007
Format: DVD
I just watched an extraordinary documentary called Koko - A Talking Gorilla, and was truly moved by what I saw. Although this film has been discounted as emotionalist, anecdotal blather by many scientists and philosophers, it offers further proof that non-human animals have consciousness and can experience the myriad of moods that we do. Non-human animals may not have the higher caliber of reflection that our species possesses (although observing some of the cretins that I see on daily basis tends to negate that assumption), they certainly experience emotions, retain memories and possess consciousness. Seeing this film makes me resent even more the philosophical assumptions put forward by Rene Descartes. For those not in the know, Descartes saw animals as mere automatons that don't think, feel or possess any real sense of consciousness. What twaddle. I am tempted to resort to some patented American anti-Franco invective and call Descartes a ridiculous Froggie moron who couldn't cogito to save his life, except that this film was produced by a French team. So Viva la France! So please see Koko - A Talking Gorilla, and revel in that fact that all life evolved from the same source.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jay Young on April 26, 2007
Format: DVD
Koko, the gorilla that knows American Sign Language, received a lot of publicity back in the late 70s and early 80s. She hasn't been in the spotlight much lately, however. Criterion's re-release of the documentary "Koko- A Talking Gorilla" allows viewers to re-discover the sensational gorilla that caused so much controversy.

The movie documents the efforts of Penny Patterson, a doctoral student at Stanford at the time the movie was released, as she works with Koko, a 6 year-old (at the time) gorilla who supposedly can communicate through American Sign Language. Towards the beginning, we learn that other scientists have taught ASL to chimpanzees, but it had never been tried with Gorillas before Koko, since they were considered too dangerous. Whatever your opinion on the wisdom of the experiment, you have to admit that Patterson is a brilliant, dedicated teacher and that Koko is an amazing Gorilla.

"KoKo" raises all kinds of difficult questions relating to the relationship between humans and animals. First, can KoKo (or any primate for that matter) understand language and concepts the same way that humans can, or is she simply displaying operant conditioning? This isn't any clearer now than it was 30 years ago. There are examples within the documentary to support both points of view. For instance, in one scene Patterson is getting a yellow sweater out for KoKo, but she keeps making the sign for red, apparently indicating that she is asking for her red sweater; this suggests that KoKo is indeed thinking with language. Plus, Patterson claims that KoKo creates new words such as signing "finger bracelet" when shown a ring. On the other hand, at one point KoKo makes a mess of papers and rips a book.
Read more ›
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Format: DVD
I have an older edition of this DVD and like to loan it out so others can see for themselves how smart Koko, and other gorillas, are. Last time I loaned it, it failed to come back to me. So I am happy to order this one from the Criterion collection. I love Koko. I learned about her in college around 1974 or so. A few years ago I thought about Koko and decided to google her. I was happy to see she is still going strong.
The DVD shows how intelligent she is - she has a sense of humor (which some people don't even have, lol) and grieves (heartbreaking scene after she is told her kitten, Allball, has died). You have to see this to realize how important this is. You will be appalled that people still eat gorilla meat - they share 98% of DNA with us. Of course, other animals we eat are sentient beings, so that's a cunumdrum for me, not being a vegetarian.
If you care about animals, you will love this DVD and Koko's story. If you are like me, you will want everyone to know about Koko.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I used the video with a class of ESL students to generate conversation
and it did the job. The content is quite amazing as we watch Koko
learn and sign new words.
My only objection is that the DVD seems old and is very slow and sometimes
the sound was not clear. At times it seemed like someone's home-made
video and was amateurish. But the purpose for me was to get the students
to speak and they did. I have seen many films by th director, Barbet
Schroeder and was a little disappointed in the quality - a bir grainy and
washed out.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By OrangeCrush on June 6, 2006
Format: DVD
Quite simply a must see for anyone interested in animals and animal rights. The film is very careful not to draw any conclusions but does a wonderful job at showing you almost every facet of Kokos behavioral range. There are forces in the world who dont want you to believe that animals are capable of more than what the current scientific community gives them credit for. The fallout from such discoveries would be very bad for certain aspects of corporate society and we all know how the corporate world thinks. Bottom line this is a beautiful film about an amazing animal. You may have read about Koko but until you actually see with your own eyes, your just getting a taste of just how amazing Koko is. Required viewing for any and all animal lovers!!!
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