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Project Nim

Year: 2011
Production Co: Red Box Films
Director: James Marsh

If you liked the more philosophical aspects of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or for that matter the original Planet of the Apes saga, you'll get a lot out of Project Nim. Among the most pertinent questions it raises is whether we should realise and strictly observe a hard division between humans and animals.

If there is such a line, it seems to be one a group of researchers crossed in a 1970s effort to 'humanise' a chimp they took off its mother and named Nim.

Nim is most famous for living with a well-to-do New York family, but he was bounced from one experiment to another throughout most of his life – cruelly at times – in blatant disregard for efforts to turn him human.

The original effort was an experiment to see if a chimp bought up as a human child, taught sign language, etc, would be indivisible from a human in performance and ability.

Most casual anthropologists know it was one of many research programs that failed to produce a super intelligent or even more 'human' chimp, and like Caeser growing up in the Apes saga, subsequent participants involved with each new research project found that he was a large, essentially uncontrollable, strong and potentially dangerous animal.

There's no single emotional timbre to the film. It ranges from tragic and horrifying like when it describes the medical research facility a lot of animals end up at, and hilarious when the free spirited mother of the New York household introduces Nim to alcohol and pot and breastfeeds him.

There's also no obvious message or moral. It just does a great job shining a light on how ridiculous we can be when the pursuit of knowledge and the messy frailties of emotions and economics collide.

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