From the Director of critically acclaimed Man on Wire comes the story of Nim, a chimpanzee who was the subject of an extended study of animal linguistics by Professor Herbert S. Terrace of Columbia University in New York.
Project Nim began in 1972 when an infant chimp was rather abruptly taken from its mother and raised by the family of a psychology student in a Brownstone in New York. Idyllic living you might think, but this rather naive student was an ex lover of Prof. Terrace and although I believe she meant well, she seemed a bit delusional.
The line between parenthood and scientific experiment seemed to become very blurred.
Nim was a fast learner and enjoyed dining at the table with the family, not to mention the odd beer and spliff, but after a time became disruptive and hard to manage. The line between parenthood and scientific experiment seemed to become very blurred. After ongoing complications, Nim was moved from pillar to post and eventually sent back to the Oklahoma research institute where he was born.
Sadly though when the institute went broke, Nim was sold for $7,500 to a medical research company known as LEMSIP. Eventually action was taken by an unorthodox lawyer to retrieve him and with the help of one of his more loving former carers, Nim was rescued. Nim lived on an animal sanctuary called The Black Beauty Ranch until 2000 when he died of a heart attack.
…a revealing, yet tragic story.
I found this to be an intriguing documentary by the multi award winning Director James Marsh, but I can’t help feeling incredibly sorry for Nim. He seems to have been a victim of a hedonistic professor with a point to prove. In his usual style Marsh takes a neutral stance and lets the people lead the documentary which makes for a revealing, yet tragic story.
Though I’m sure everyone involved began this research project with the best intentions, this documentary only confirmed for me how wrong it is for us humans to interfere with nature.
Image courtesy of Project Nim