Film #318: PROJECT NIM
4 out of 5 stars
MAN ON WIRE director James Marsh creates this documentary about a family who brings a baby chimpanzee into their home in the hopes of teaching him sign language and socializing him with humans. Almost immediately, the project goes awry and major problems rear their head. Without the proper structure, changes were made to the protocol which served only to create more chaos. Throughout the course of the research study, it became evident that it is the crime of hubris was the one the researchers most often committed. The idea that one could take what was basically a wild animal and somehow indoctrinate him and make him “human” quickly shows itself to be flawed. Then, when the inherent flaws in the project present themselves, Nim is unceremoniously dumped back into the world of chimps and returned to the bleak facility from which he was first taken. So, by the time the researchers are literally smoking pot with the chimp… Well, science has gone completely out of the window. The one overriding anger that the latter part of the film inspires is spawned not by the nature of the chimp and his inherent “chimpness,” but rather inspired from the people who never seemed to realize that the subject of their “experiment” was a living, breathing, THINKING creature. The main researcher, Herb Terrace, is an ego-driven, attention-whore of the highest order. His methods are flawed and designed solely for his own aggrandizement. And if there is to be any blame for the project’s failure, it rests solely on his shoulders. PROJECT NIM is a fascinating – and heartbreaking – documentary that questions just who are the beasts and who are the just. Highly recommended!