From James Marsh, the acclaimed director of Man on Wire, comes Project Nim, a documentary about Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was raised as a human as part of a linguistic study during the Nature vs. Nurture debate the 1970s. Marsh’s directorial fingerprint is barely evident, with the fascinating subject matter relegating formal ingenuity or penetrating journalistic insight to the back seat. Nim is taken from his mother at birth and treated as a human, taught sign-language (chimps’ bone and muscular structures prevent them from being able to form words as humans do, despite what Rise of the Planet of the Apes would have us believe) and his progress is charted by psychologist Herb Terrace as he is passed between a variety of home environments, each of which prove to be unsuitable in one way or another. At one point Nim smokes weed! A fascinating story which deserves better than Marsh’s cookie-cutter documentary structure.
Words: Oisín Murphy