Not Quite Humane

Project Nim
The Linking Miss
Official WebsiteTrailers & Mo
PG-13 | 93 min

When humans monkey around with monkey bidness, with aims for human bidness, the results aren’t always fair and kind to the chimps.  You saw what happened when they tried to teach them simians flying tricks in Project X, right?  Well whatta ya think happens to lil Nim (Chimpsky) in his eponymous project, which also doubles as the name of this sad, often times frightening, and all around fantastic documentary by James Marsh (Man On Wire)?  Don’t worry, Nim doesn’t get gassed with radiation poising, but his life aint all a bowl of bananas either

Back in the groovy 70s, Columbia University professor Herbert Terrace wanted to see if our chimpanzee cousins had the same capacity for language that we have… cept they’re incapable of actual speech, so ASL would be the sign of these times/experiments.  In order to do so, he would take a newborn chimp from his mother and replace her with a human one.  Terrance found his subject in Nim, a Oklahoma research lab pup, and transported him into the wilds of New York’s Upper West Side.  The professor put Nim in the caring hands of one of his former students, an easy-going gal who didn’t like structure, and apparently did like breastfeeding animals (you read that correctly)

After not much progress, and a little too much non-monkey bidness (Nim drinks beer and smokes pot!), Terrace changes Nim’s surroundings, and continued to change his surrogate mothers, with even younger, and hotter research assistants, who taught Nim our language with the use of his hands.  Nim indeed learned how to sign, and even put together some rudimentary sentences, but mainly for getting things that he wanted, like food, or even a little kitten… that he would start to dry hump (you also read this correctly).  As time passed, Nim grew more and more chimp-like, and for his human companions, this could prove to have very dangerous consequences to their vital organs, if he were to ever act out, and guess what, he did act out!

After about 5 years, Terrace had all the info he needed (and sadly not the results he had hoped for), and thus had no more use for Nim, so he was shipped back to Oklahoma, to basically be forgotten.  This is where all the sad weepy stuff begins.  Nim was used to the good life, where humans gave him endless amounts of attention, food and playtime, but that all went away in a flash.  Also, since he grew up without other chimps around, he had no idea how to interact with his own kind.  More like so UN-kind.  The Okie facility isn’t even the end of the road for poor lil Nim, and where it goes from there is juss a frowny and lonely existence until he died.  Chimps may not be able to speak our language, but they still have feelings.  You to do, so FEEL THIS, the best movie we’ve seen in 2011!!!

And Before There Was Nim: there was Washoe the chimp, and before her, there were Nazi talking dogs(???), and before them, there was Clever Hans, the horse that could add(????)

Verdictgo: Breast In Show

Nim is a Project worth participating in, in limited release

and until next thyme the balcony is clothed…

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Not Quite Humane”

  1. SPOILERS IN THIS COMMENT

    I just watched this movie, and I definitely cried. I mean, what the EFF were they thinking that they could raise a chimp like a human and then literally tear him from his familiars and leave him to his own devices without the care and stimulation he was raised with? And that IDIOT psychologist Terrace thought it would do well with in a stark cage with other chimps when he'd never ever seen one? How would he communicate? Do chimps sign??? All of them except Bob used him and threw him away. They all gave up on him and forgot about him. It makes me sick to think that this is my species. That we are that inept and cruel. That we would subject ANY innocent animals to testing labs is despicable. If we want things tested, we should test them ourselves.

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