Project Nim

dir. James Marsh / 2011 / United Kingdom / 93min.
The story of a chimpanzee raised like a human child.

In November 1973 a baby chimpanzee is born in the cage of a primate research center in Oklahoma. A few days later, his mother receives a sedative injection. She loses consciousness, and her small child, crying in fear, is brutally taken from her forever. The little chimpanzee is named Nim and is given to a psychology graduate who is already the mother of three children. For an appropriate fee, she is to raise him as her own child. This is how the "Nim project" comes into effect, one of the most radical experiments in history, which aims to prove that a chimpanzee, raised like a human, can learn to communicate through language.

Over time, Nim passes from hand to hand and impacts the lives of each person who cares for him. By the age of 5, he already knows 120 words. He has developed human nature and habits. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, the project is put on hold and Nim's life changes dramatically. The now adult chimpanzee returns to the isolated cage from which he was taken as a child.

Without reluctance or excessive sentimentality, "Nim Project" tells the story of a chimpanzee that humans tried to "remake" into a human. What we learn about Nim's nature is at the same time a bitter lesson about our own humanness. The participants' accounts and previously unknown film archives make the astonishing and very moving story of the chimpanzee also a revealing journey through the world of the people raising him. It is also a film about the impact the little chimpanzee had on the people he interacted with.

93 min
country / year of production:
United Kingdom / 2011
James Marsh
selected festivals and awards:
2011 – Sundance FF: World Cinema - Documentary Directing Award, Berlinale IFF, Boston Society of Film Criticsa Award for The Best Documentary, Toronto Film Critics Association Documentary Award Nominee, CPH:DOX, BAFTA Best Documentary Award Nominee
psychology ecology animal rights

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