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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting a Raw Deal From Homo Sapiens., 2 Feb 2012
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
********CONTAINS SPOILERS********

"Project Nim" is one of those documentaries that is both deeply fascinating and horrifying at the same time. The manipulative Homo sapiens do not come out of this film in a very good light. In fact by the end you feel a sense of shame for the way in which one chimpanzees innocence was stolen from him at birth. The 70s experiment to locate a baby chimp into a human family to see if it could be taught to communicate by sign language was dreamed up by Columbia Universities Herb Terrace. This esteemed professor seemed more interested in the attractive young women employed on the project rather than the work itself. Baby chimp Nim is cruelly taken from his mother and located to an ex student of Terrace's whom he had also spookily enough had an affair with. But rather than pick a normal family poor old Nim gets to live with a lot of free thinking wacky baccy smoking hippies. This lot would unhinge any normal child let alone an impressionable chimp. Things start to go wrong quickly. We then watch Nim passed from one person to another. One minute he is eating yogurt and granola for breakfast, and the next he is in a cage with the usual chimp zoo diet.

This was one experiment that was doomed from the start. Anyone who watches wildlife documentaries will know that Chimpanzees are incredibly strong and aggressive animals. A bite from one of these can do serious damage, as many a zookeeper has reason to know. Out in the jungle it is a case of kill or be killed! They are not the cuddly little cutesies from the tea adverts! You can take the chimp from the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the chimp! Having said all that they are also very intelligent animals, as Nim shows with his rapid development in sign language. It is not long before someone inevitably gets badly bitten. Characters flit in and out of Nim's life. He develops a bond with someone and they suddenly disappear off the scene. This becomes confusing and clearly psychologically damaging to Nim. One disturbing character, who resembles Dr Mengele, appears working for a drug company in what is the most upsetting part of the film. There can be no happy ending of course. The damage is done when the chimpanzees first come into human contact. The aim of the documentary was clearly to paint humans in a poor light, but there are some who show we are not all bad. One woman sheds tears at Nim's treatment, and one man worked tirelessly on Nim's behalf, showing a deep affection for him that went far beyond the call of duty. One would like to think that in this more enlightened age such things could not happen, but that would of course be rather naive. A documentary that certainly makes you pause for thought and is well worth watching.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, lurid, sad, 20 May 2012
By 
William Cohen (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
I'll watch any film by James Marsh. I loved Man on Wire, and this film is very similar in structure and style. Fairly quickly you got a sense that it was all going to go horribly wrong. The fact that it happened at all is quite puzzling. It says a lot about 70s hippies and their new but ultimately misguided ideals.

I watched all the extras and got half way through a second viewing. Having gone to boarding school, I could relate to Nim's separation anxiety. I also think the need to assert authority is shared by both humans and chimpanzees.

The footage is extraordinary. I never realised such a thing had ever been tried. James Marsh has told another gripping story which everyone should see.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must see, 10 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
Thought-provoking, funny (esp. the bit involving 2 researchers and a kitten...) and at times devastatingly sad (re man's inanimality to animals - not sure why we say inhumanity!), I found this film incredibly interesting, have seen it twice so far will watch again.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stupid humans....., 14 Jan 2012
By 
Chris Turner (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
A fascinating docementary about a chimp taken from his mother at birth and raised like a child. The 'rich hippies' start to train him to sign as part of a science experiment to see if we can communicate with animals.

Contains SPOILERS:

There is something unsettling about this film and somewhat upsetting.
Letting a chimp to get stoned and having an almost uncomfotable interest in his masturbation techniques makes for uneasy viewing at somepoints. Hence the 'stupid humans' title. It was an experiment that although failed did tell us about what not to do hopefully in the future regarding animals and experiments.
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4.0 out of 5 stars New Left animal behaviour experiments gone wrong., 26 Mar 2014
By 
Miss Cherish Foster (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
The film provided an interesting critique of social/ecological experimentation. On a personal level, I did not like how some of the students pursuing identity politics attempted to impose Freudian reductionism on Nim's behaviour. I think it may make some viewers angry concerning the unabashed callousness of humanity, in particular the callousness of well-connected, liberal intelligentsia sections of society.
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4.0 out of 5 stars So much more than it first seems, 24 Jan 2014
By 
Lazy Maisy (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
This film has recently been broadcast by the BBC. I started watching it without any prior knowledge of the story because I am interested in science and thought it would be a documentary about a scientific experiment carried out in the 1970s (like 'Horizon' or similar). It was SO much more. Rather than being about the mechanics of language acquisition by another species, it casts a stark spotlight on the relationship between us humans and our non-human animal companions on this planet. It is about power, helplessness and loss; naivety, stupidity and responsibility (or lack of it). I am hopeful that it is a historical record of a time, albeit not that long ago, when we were more cavalier about animal rights than we are now - but, sadly, I am not sure that this is the case. Because it was not that long ago, the people involved in the experiment give their own stories, which provides far more impact than having their roles interpreted by actors, especially as there is A LOT of amazing footage from the experiment showing younger versions of the various characters in a seemingly perpetual 'summer of love'. The effect is a sort of time-travel gallery of 'then' and 'now', showing how life's experiences can mute the brilliance of optimistic, beautiful youth. And of course the most tragic player of all is Nim. A thought-provoking, sensitive film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-wrenching, 16 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
I bought this DVD to use as part of an essay I was writing, and it was heart-breaking. They use a wealth of archive footage, along with new interviews, to tell the story of Nim, the chimp taught ASL. I wasn't expecting it to be difficult to watch but it is, and it's stayed with me. Makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you cry at times. The makers haven't glamourised the study at all - frankly it paints a rather stark picture of Professor Terrace, who started the Project.

Watched it thinking I'd get an insight into animal language, which I did - but it perhaps should be marketed as an insight into human nature. Would definitely recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic documentary, for all the right reasons, 11 Sep 2013
By 
Mr. James Dickson (Sheffield, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
Though I'd never consider myself to be particularly naive, there was much in the film to be shocked by, not just from what was essentially cast as the villain (the LEMSIP organisation), but from the more liberal anti-establishment hippie types who participated in such a lax, poorly envisioned, morally and ethically neglect, social and psychological experiment (and not even on an orphaned chimp but a kidnapped one).

Of course, methods and standards change with the years and it's often easy to look with scorn and haughty derision at the past, but at the heart of the issue presented, it appears the lack of regulation and naivety/moral ambivalence toward Nim's care was the main flaw of the experiment; not to mention the distinct lack of research and scant knowledge of primates. As a result, the documentary presents an almost absurd but totally true and shocking account of Nim's life, which although filled with much joy and apparent content in a human environment, carries with it the inevitable and almost unbearable melancholy and injustice of an ill-conceived and morally bankrupt experiment.

The personal accounts of those involved reflected the times to an extent, though many carried with them a great love and compassion for Nim, which makes his predicament all the more tragic when some of those people were so powerless to help him. Yet, in the best way a documentary can be, the argument is never one-sided and what is presented is largely a presentation of fact and first-hand accounts, and it is from these accounts we are left to decide who are the heroes and villains of the piece - and there really are heroes and villains. A tragic documentary, for all the right reasons.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A film about linguistics... in the cinema. Who woudda thunk?!?!?, 17 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
Nim Chimpsky has refound fame - albeit posthumous. (Nim died of a heart attack in 2000, aged 26.) From James Marsh, the man who brought us the brilliant 'Man on Wire' documentary as a 'heist', comes Project Nim about the chimpanzee who was taught by humans to sign as a story of abandonment by (almost) every human who was supposed to care for him. Based on the book by Elizabeth Hess, this is a story of the inhumane treatment by humans of an animal that became a member of a family, the subject of a scientific experiment, a laboratory test animal and a legal test case.

Originally envisaged as a means of showing how animals can acquire syntax, thereby disproving Noam Chomsky's (hence the name - geddit?!?) assertion about unique human abilities to learn language, and apparently as a way to make the main investigator, Herbert Terrace, famous, it seems Nim never conformed to humans' expectations. Surprisingly, he turned out to be a chimpanzee - but one who was actually able to communicate with humans.

You do not have to be interested in linguistics to enjoy this film - just as you did not need to know anything about tight-rope walking to enjoy Marsh's previous documentary. The film is thoroughly enjoyable, moving and enlightening - telling us much more about humans than chimpanzees - and comes highly recommended. If you didn't get to a cinema in time, check out the DVD.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly moving, 1 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
Was not expecting this to be as troubling as it was. Thought it would be an informative doc on how well chimps can pick up human language but it was much more than that. Thought provoking.
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Project Nim [DVD]
Project Nim [DVD] by James Marsh (DVD - 2012)
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