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DVD: Project Nim | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Project Nim

DVD: Project Nim

A chimp isn't just for Christmas

Cosying up to the star: Nim and handler

The domesticating instinct runs deep: humankind cannot bear too much animality and the wilderness shrinks daily and exponentially. We love to see animals as if they were human: we’re victims of the anthropomorphising compulsion, to coin a phrase for a new disorder. The appeal of the super-hit Frozen Planet is based on stories about humanoids who just happen to have fur, feathers or fins. They’re people, not beasts: that way we can identify with them. Project Nim’s importance as a film – quite apart from its formal brilliance – rests on its shocking indictment of our desire to cosy up to animals: the simple story of a luckless chimp whose fate at the hands of compulsive domesticators has all the dimensions of tragedy.

Told in a ruthlessly deadpan tone which suits the horror of the story well, James Marsh’s film describes the mostly well-intentioned efforts of animal behaviour professionals who want to see what happens if a monkey is raised as a human child. The results are, needless to say, disastrous from the word go, with the determination of the human "mother” to breastfeed Nim when he first moves into her family’s house. 

Marsh proved with the Oscar-winning Man on Wire that he can seamlessly handle the combination of archive footage and skilful reconstructions, so much so that it is often difficult to know what is real and what has been dramatised. If you’ve ever called your dog or your cat “my baby”, you’d better watch this film. When it comes to loving the beasts out there, our own barely disguised beastliness gets the better of us. In Project Nim, the humans mostly come off very badly. The film’s sobriety makes it all the more powerful. A gripping and deeply thought-provoking film, further establishing Marsh’s mastery of a certain documentary genre.

Watch the trailer of Project Nim

If you’ve ever called your dog or your cat 'my baby', you’d better watch this film


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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