Project Nim is a documentary feature about the life of a chimpanzee, brought up from birth in a research environment. Nim was part of a study to discover whether chimps could understand and communicate with humans through American Sign Language, while exploring the nature versus nurture debate.
The study was developed by Herbert S Terrace and a graduate team at Columbia University during the Seventies. Nim was brought up within a loving environment and treated like any other child would be until he became fully grown. When the success of the project stalled and Nim grew increasingly aggressive, he was returned to the Oklahoma Center for Primate Studies in which he was born before being sold for medical research.
The documentary is both beautiful and chilling, with the various project teachers and 'family' fading in and out of Nim's world and on the screen. There was much sadness in Nim's life, but the passion interviewees had for his welfare is heartwarming to watch. Nim died of a heart attack in 2000.
The audience is given a well-rounded view of the story through the mixed use of archive footage, interviews, impeccably clear photos and sound bites. The story is engaging, compelling and at times humorous - a fascinating and emotional watch.