Saturday, 7 July 2012
Mini-Review: Project Nim
Around the same time that the smash hit ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ was released another simian oriented film also came out, not a tale of apes rising up against humanity but a hard-hitting documentary of a team of researchers attempting to understand primates and possibly build a bridge between them and mankind.
The documentary focuses on a chimpanzee named Nim who since before his birth was the subject of a revolutionary experiment, to see if a chimp raised by and alongside humans and taught sign-language could interact and communicate with man. Taking place in the 1970s this experiment was not considered very important to scientific progress and so was unfortunately underfunded and undervalued. This dismissal meant that the experiment was not as regulated as would have been preferred and the chimp lived a bohemian life as the environment around him was constantly changing. The film chronicles the life of Nim through interviews and recollections of those who were a part of his life.
‘Project Nim’ is directed excellently and features very frank and unflinching testimonials from the key people involved in Nim’s life, Nim’s story is detailed through these interviews and through archive footage of the experiment and of Nim himself. Each person speaks of the time they spent with Nim and their involvement with the experiment, their thoughts on the project as a whole and their views on the other members, and then just as they appeared and disappeared from Nim’s life so too do they end their time discussing their memories with a final thought of contrition or satisfaction.
I found the documentary to be vastly interesting, as the particular subject matter has always intrigued me, the idea that the Tabula Rasa hypothesis could be finally answered made for compelling viewing. I very much appreciated the honesty that the interviewees displayed, being given such intimate details into not only the experiment but also the lives and state of mind of the person during that time was very critical in allowing the viewer to discern whether or not the experiment was carried out appropriately and additionally to form an opinion on the morality and ethics involved with such an investigation.
‘Project Nim’ certainly doesn’t pull any punches, which is ideal for documentaries, especially those that demand the unadulterated truth as this picture does. Whilst it does lose momentum and some interest towards the middle of the story this is forgivable since the film is telling a factual and accurate story of a true event. ‘Project Nim’ is a very enjoyable piece of filmmaking and not only entertains the viewer but it also enriches them and I for one was certainly left with a number of questions to pose to myself after viewing this intriguing and memorable documentary.