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Project Nim 2012

PG-13 CC
4.3 out of 5 stars (62) IMDb 7.4/10

From the Oscar-winning team behind MAN ON WIRE comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who became the focus of a landmark 1970s experiment to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. But as Nim's natural instincts take over and the humans around him fail to protect him.

Starring:
Nim Chimpsky, Stephanie LaFarge
Runtime:
1 hour, 39 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director James Marsh
Starring Nim Chimpsky, Stephanie LaFarge
Supporting actors Herbert Terrace, Wer LaFarge, Jenny Lee, Laura-Ann Petitto, Bill Tynan, Joyce Butler, Renne Falitz, Bob Ingersoll, Alyce Moore, James Mahoney, Henry Herrmann, Cleveland Amory, Marion Probst, Chris Byrne, Bern Cohen, Reagan Leonard, Anna May Marsh, Mike Lepera
Studio Lionsgate
MPAA rating PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dawn Forsythe on December 28, 2011
Format: DVD
I remember the first time I held a chimp's hand. The first touch between human and ape fingers establishes a connection, and you never forget the soft leathery feel of a chimpanzee's palm. What should be an ordinary sensation is not. It is unforgettable and forever.

The problem arises when the chimp-human connection becomes subject to human arrogance, sometimes cloaked in love, other times defined by science, and often supported by stupidity.

Project Nim is the true story of a chimpanzee who was taken from his mother to participate in a 1970s university research project on communications. The movie has all three components: love, science, and stupidity, all adding up to a level of human arrogance that is almost incomprehensible.

Nim's story begins at an Oklahoma primate research project, when the mother chimpanzee, Carolyn, is shot with a tranquilizer so the research director can grab Carolyn's sixth newborn, Nim, as they stole all the others. Nim goes from his mother's arms, to adored and beloved "child" of a human mother, to precocious subject of young college students' attention, to an independent young male actually starting to act like a chimpanzee. All along the way, we hear directly from the people who played the supporting roles in Nim's young life. As I listened to them tell their stories, from their perspectives, I could identify with their good intentions.

And arrogance. A university researcher who doesn't believe the "science" was compromised when he seduced the project's sweet teenage "education director." A college graduate who lets a chimpanzee nurse from her breast for months, and then years later thinks she can walk into the (by now) adult chimp's cage, when he is screaming and "displaying," and thinks the chimpanzee won't hurt her.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
About half way through the fascinating, absorbing and unsettling PROJECT NIM, a tear-stained former female caretaker of the chimp looks right into the camera and states "Shame on us." That sense of shame at humanity's awesome hubris is just one of several very strong emotions that filmmaker James Marsh effectively evokes in a film that asks some very big questions, even as it moves and breaks your heart.

Poor Nim. From the day he was torn from his mother's devastated arms, he was unwittingly entwined with human machinations he could never understand nor hope to escape. For an animal lover, it's hard to watch his tragedy unfold, yet also impossible not to watch its moments of sheer joy and revelation; and impossible not to want to comprehend what happened and what it all meant . . . for us, for science and for Nim.

Some might take issue with Marsh's playful directing, which fuses some rather graphic and overtly dramatic recreations with real documentary footage. But I felt he did a great job of allowing the audience to feel what Nim's caretakers appear to have felt -- charmed, seduced, amused, uncertain, sometimes frightened, and often too caught up in their amazing relationship with a wild animal to perceive the moral dangers or eventual consequences.

The film brings up many intriguing issues -- questions about the nature and purpose of language (did scientists really believe that intelligent animals who for millions of years experienced the world without language were going to learn a few signs and suddenly express to us everything they are thinking?); questions about academic and sexual power (the skeevy Herb and his phalanx of fresh-faced, sexy girls is really something!); questions about the shaky moral ground of animal experimentation of all kinds.
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Format: DVD
Project Nim is a fascinating video comprised from wonderfully logged archives of videos, along with more recent interviews from his caretakers: past and present. It's a great documentary that you don't need to be a naturalist or linguist to enjoy. I enjoyed the "science" from the film, my 9 year old daughter felt the story, and my wife felt so bad for Nim she could barely watch - but did so with great interest. A couple of days later we still find ourselves discussing Nim in the household.

This resource would be a great one for a range of classes, in various educational settings, from kindergarten to graduate school.

The story of Nim, as revealed here, will engaged the viewer with questions: from the nature of language, to the linguistic capacities of "other animals", along with the humane treatment of subjects used in clinical and experimental research. I appreciate the honesty put forth in the documentary as there are aspects of Nim's treatment that will certainly irk you. At the same time as being irked by what had been done to Nim, I feel that many of the decisions made are understandable in the light of events that arose (i.e. Nim badly injuring his volunteer caretakers). One could have simple reported the cute and cuddly successful sides to this story - but thankfully the rougher edges were presented giving us what feels like a complete picture of Nim's life. Nim is an animal and had violent instinctive behavior from time to time. Behavior that made coexistence with its human animal compatriot difficult. I am not suggesting in any negative way that this is Nim's fault, the experimental design was new and did not anticipate such catastrophic encounters.
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