Project Nim (2011)

Documentary by James Marsh

I’d wanted to see this documentary for quite some time, so was excited to finally sit down and watch it last night with a friend.  Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment, I think in large part due to my dislike of the filmmaker’s documentary style.  James Marsh also made the critically popular documentary Man On Wire (chronicling tightrope walker Philippe Petit) about which I felt the same (more on this in a bit).  Project Nim documents the story of a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky who became the subject of a scientific experiment spearheaded by a Columbia University professor in the 1970’s.

What I expected to be a moving, emotionally engaging, intelligent account of our closest primate relative being raised among humans as opposed to its like species turned out to be a veritable freak show!  The majority of the “players” in the experiment came across as delusional oddballs who seemed more like they belonged on the Jerry Springer Show than at a higher education institution conducting experiments with an innocent primate in the name of science.  Continue reading