18 August 2011

Project Nim is the latest documentary from Man on Wire and Academy Award winning director, James Marsh.

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Project Nim was founded in the early 1970’s by Professor Herbert Terrace after he thought it would be interesting to communicate with a chimp via sign language. The chimp in question was Nim Chimpski who was taken from his mother at birth and placed within a human family.

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The documentary gives a platform for all those involved to tell their own story about Nim, including the daughter of Nim’s first teacher who not only grew up with a chimp as a brother but also the ability to have conversations with another species! The educating of Nim on face value is heart-warming and almost magical but as more human traits get passed onto the chimp, the documentary offers a reality check.  Shockingly Nim gets a taste for alcohol and fast cars and, at 5’2” with the strength of 6 times a normal man, relationships quickly change. Project Nim blurs the boundaries between the development of a family’s child and a scientific project.

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During the New York Time’s Magazine’s interview with Herbert in 1975 (where Nim featured on the front cover!), we can read the eye-widening extent of his plans for the future of Nim. These included the ability for Nim to teach sign to other chimps and for two chimps to eventually give birth. This would have allowed Herbert to see if the adult chimps would teach sign language to their young.  An experiment like that would have the ability to change the nature of a species in time . . . .  Rise of the Planet of the Apes anyone?

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Project Nim shows at FACT from tomorrow. You can book tickets online, in person at the Box Office or by calling 0871 902 5737.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes continues this week, if you haven’t seen it yet, we suggest watching it after Project Nim to give it a bit of a reality kick. 

 

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