Project Nim

Poster for Project Nim

Autumn 2011 Documentary series

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by James Marsh

Starring Bob Angelini, Bern Cohen, and Reagan Leonard

Rated NR · 1h 33m
United Kingdom / United States

View trailer

Project Nim

From the Oscar-winning team (director James Marsh) behind Man on Wire comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment, which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Based on the book Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human, by Elizabeth Hess, the film follows Nim’s extraordinary journey through human society, and the enduring impact he makes on the people he meets along the way. The film is an unflinching and unsentimental biography of an animal we humans tried to make human. What we learn about his true nature – and indeed our own – is comic, revealing and profoundly unsettling.

On the official Project Nim website, director James Marsh has published a Director’s Statement, which begins: “Project Nim is an unusual proposition for a film. We’ve tried to apply some of the principles and techniques of a traditional film biography to the life story of animal. In the film, we follow an individual chimpanzee through infancy and adolescence to adulthood, all the while witnessing both his emerging behavior and its impact on the humans who lived around him. There are many intriguing behavioral overlaps between humans and chimapnzees explored in the film but it’s the differences between the species that really shape Nim’s life with us and determine his unhappy fate.” (Read more: Project Nim)

In The New York Times, A.O. Scott writes: “Project Nim, is a probing, unsettling study of primate behavior, focusing on the complex dynamics of power, sex and group bonding in a species whose startling capacity for selfishness and aggression is offset by occasional displays of intelligence and compassion. The movie also features a chimpanzee. (…) There is no doubt that Nim was exploited, and also no doubt that he was loved. Mr. Marsh, by allowing those closest to Nim plenty of room to explain themselves, examines the moral complexity of this story without didacticism. He allows the viewer, alternately appalled, touched and fascinated, to be snagged on some of its ethical thorns.”