Project Nim (2011)

Project Nim

Project Nim Review

Project Nim is a 2011 documentary film that garnered critical acclaim and deservedly so as it truly is terrific and one of the very best documentaries I’ve seen.

It is about a 1970s research experiment in which a family raised a chimpanzee as a human child and tried to teach him a limited sign language. This is such a fascinating subject matter that was always intriguing to me and thankfully the movie uses it to the greatest degree, making you want to know what is going to happen next. It was incredibly entertaining and always involving.

I liked how they incorporated the interviews seamlessly into the story. This is one of the rare documentaries that truly seems at times like a live-action film with a definite story. That is because it is incredibly cinematic and even epic in its ambition. But the interviews are fantastic as all of the people share their time spent with Nim in such a heartbreaking, but still honest fashion. You can see the evident sadness in their eyes and that is the biggest strength of the documentary format – it lets you hear the real people who tell the story and thus you can see their honest reactions and that makes it all the more powerful and real. And those moments when some of them cried in front of the camera were of the most impactful and devastating.

It is such a beautiful and deep, thematically rich experience. It teaches us everything we need to know about the species and that was maybe the best aspect here as it is endlessly informative. And because I was always fascinated with this particular topic, I found its treatment excellent and really thorough. Project Nim explores not only language, both human and animal, but also the relationship between humans and chimps or the relationships between humans and any animal as it is so relatable and applicable to all species.

But what is the biggest take away here is definitely the message the movie conveys which is that anyone who wants to have a pet needs to fully be prepared for it and never to humanize it and forget about its needs. People usually tend to regard their pets as human and that is so wrong as the animal suffers by their restraining its real nature.

What happened to Nim is so tragic and so awful that it’s all the more powerful and heartbreaking because it really did happen. The film is very sophisticated because it wonderfully shows the darker side of both animals and humans, thus always being realistic and never taking one side over the other. It is very emotional, but to me that was its weakness as it was a bit too manipulative at times. And I wanted more of the real emotion and not just those tragic moments. The flaw here is also the ending which is too sugar-coated and just unsatisfying on multiple levels when compared to the previous parts.

This is mostly a superb film nonetheless. It is wonderfully directed by James Marsh and I can’t understand why critics deem his ‘Man on Wire‘ to be a superior a film when it clearly isn’t. The film is very well edited and constructed, it is always smart and sophisticated and at times very thought-provoking. The tone is overly tragic, but happier moments are still present. And yes, the movie can make you cry how deeply affecting it is. It has such a big heart.

Project Nim is also very important for everyone to see and sheds the light on some very important and relevant issues. But it is still memorable and very entertaining in the process. It is to me one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen and it is arguably one of the best films of 2011.

Project Nim is such a heartbreaking and very important film. It is very well made, very emotional and always so fascinating with its intriguing subject matter being extremely well explored with many clever and sophisticated themes. It is one of the year’s finest films and one of the best documentaries I’ve seen.

My Rating – 4.5

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