2011 Sundance Docs in Focus: PROJECT NIM

Heading into the homestretch of this year’s World Cinema Competition is Academy Award-winning British director James Marsh’s portrait of the simian subject a unique 1970s scientific experiment, PROJECT NIM.

Sundance Program Description:

From the Oscar-winning team behind MAN ON WIRE comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who, in the 1970s, became the focus of a landmark experiment that aimed to prove an ape—if raised and nurtured like a human child—could learn to communicate using sign language. If successful, the consequences of the project would be profound, breaking down the barrier between man and his closest animal relative and fundamentally redefining what it is to be human. Combining the testimony of all the key participants, newly discovered archival film, and dramatic imagery, PROJECT NIM tells the picturesque story of one chimpanzee’s extraordinary journey through human society and the enduring impact he makes on the people he meets along the way.

Filmmaker James Marsh returns to the Sundance Film Festival with an unflinching, unsentimental biography of an animal we tried to make human. What we learn about Nim’s true nature—and indeed our own—is comic, revealing, and profoundly unsettling.

Some Background:
Marsh’s MAN ON WIRE premiered at Sundance in 2008, winning both the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, and of course went on to claim the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2009, amongst numerous other accolades along the way. Also a narrative director, he most recently directed the 1980 portion of the RED RIDING trilogy, released theatrically and on VOD last year.

Why You Should Watch:
Beyond providing a privileged look at the unusual and fascinating life of one ape through a wealth of fantastic archival material, PROJECT NIM explores questions regarding the ethics of the scientific process and of animal research, including what responsibility, if any, scientists have to their non-human subjects, made into “projects” by removing them from their natural environment.

Screening Info:
For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph above.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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