HBO Documentary Film: PROJECT NIM

By Jef Dinsmore on Dec 27, 2012 to Documentaries


Overview: PROJECT NIM tells the story of the chimpanzee that was the focus of a landmark experiment to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Combining recent testimony from key participants with dramatic imagery and newly discovered archival film from the 1970s, the feature documentary ProjectNim_posterfollows Nim’s extraordinary journey through human society, chronicling his enduring impact on the people he meets.

Expectations: This is a topic that highly interests me. Over the Holiday week I will seek this documentary film out, probably on HBOGO, and weigh in on my thoughts. I suspect I will fall in love with Nim and take up the debate that I believe the documentary wishes audiences to engage in.

That debate is on the topic of whether a wild animal should be treated as a scientific experiment and given a life not normal for it. The issue becomes more sensitive when a charismatic, intelligent primate is the subject. Nim lives a life of experimentation, social exercise, and sign language lessons that seem beneficial at first. I expect, in the end, this piece will leave me asking many questions and, hopefully they will not go unanswered, as this documentary takes me through this extraordinary chimp’s life.

Gut Reaction: This is only the second documentary I viewed this year that left me thinking about it for days afterwards. The thoughts and emotions that surfaced roil within. To me, that is what draws me to HBO Documentary Films; to get an opportunity to soul search, to be impacted, to maybe change. I was moved by the story of Nim.

I am a lover of both science and nature. I was not a lover, however, of the science shown in this documentary. I wish this experimentatioNim_familyn would have never happened. At the same time I realize the film needed a villain in the piece. I remember as a child wanting to have a chimp as a pet and have since learned and had reinforced by this film that that was a foolish notion. I have also reaffirmed through this piece that life, even an animals, is of value. We cannot change natural instinct. Is it abuse or scientific advancement? Must we have animal testing? Do humans ever think ahead of how their actions impact other lives? Humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize to extreme.

Thoughts like those above were mulled over in my mind as this documentary played and still do. In the end I feel an injustice was brought upon this animal and sadly such injustices continue to happen. Yes, I’m soft-hearted when it comes to animals. I do not have the subjective and analytical mindset of the scientists seen onscreen in this picture. And I have to admit that I am not opening up all the ramifications, and issues this documentary opened up for me. Though it tells the basic story of the scientific project it invokes so many questions, theories and feelings I just don’t have the space to convey it all. I’ll let you explore all that for yourselves if you decide to watch. Hopefully, you will come back here and give us your thoughts.

You know, I haven’t had a great number of comments about the Documentary posts I have presented this year on HBOWatch but if I can recommend one that can grip you I have to say it is this one. The way it was shot and presented was uniquely done and the story was clearly told. See PROJECT NIM.       Nim

In Conclusion: I thank PROJECT NIM producer Simon Chinn, director James Marsh and Sheila Nevins and HBO for bringing this film to us…and, what the hell, I thank you too Nim.

Additional playdates are as follows: 12.28 at 2:45pm, & 01.01 at 11:55pm, 01.06 at 12:30pm, 01.09 at 10:30am and 01.14 at 3:45 pm. HBO2 playdates: 01.02 at 8:00 pm, 01.22 at 1:00pm & 01.28 at 12:45 pm. & 12:35 am. Also find it at HBOGo and HBO ON DEMAND.

  • Tara Mazzucca

    I have this on my DVR and haven’t been able to watch it yet, just because I know I will get very emotional over it. Jef your review has validated my instincts on it. I am looking forward to seeing the documentary.

    I received my degree in Anthropology and realized too late I don’t have the ability to be objective, when it comes to people or animals. I can’t deny the connection we all have, so I have a feeling this doc is going to bring up a lot of my past and my feelings of the injustice done to other in the name of science…

  • GOTFanatic

    This was difficult to watch. My heart breaks for the animals, that (or who) are to this day, utilized as test subjects. Have things truly progressed since the 70’s? I’d like to think so, but given that puppy mills are still very much in existence, courts convict abuse cases not on the severity of abuse but, rather, treat each case alike with minimum fines, clearly we have a long, long way to go. This film was thought provoking, yes, but it was far more of an emotional journey for me than I anticipated. All should make the time for this. I believe, there is much to be learned here for the un-initiated, and Nim’s story reaffirms the need for organizations like PETA. I used to think PETA take things a bit too far some times, BUT after watching this documentary, I’m left wondering if that is truly the case. Regardless, I thank you for the experience, the education, and the reminder that I can, should, and will do more to support the prevention of animal abuse.

  • Jef Dinsmore

    I was over eager to watch this film. Upon watching it I had a difficut time trying to edit my thoughts and emotions for this post. In the end I think it turned out alright.
    And, if you are going to ask, yes it is my documentary of the year and I’ve watched them all.

  • Saw this the other night. I’m a big fan of Whale Wars if you’ve seen that on Discovery. I can’t believe people don’t see whales, dolphins and especially chimps as sentient beings. imagine we landed on a foreign planet and found something like a chimp. Would we just start testing on it? Really sad.

    I’m not a vegetarian and I do understand the differences between humans and other beings. But do not advanced primates meet the threshold of protected species?

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