Monday, November 14, 2011

Project Nim

A film about linguistics... in the cinema. Who woudda thunk?!?!?

Nim Chimpsky has refound fame - albeit posthumous. (Nim died of a heart attack in 2000, aged 26.) From James Marsh, the man who brought us the brilliant 'Man on Wire' documentary as a 'heist', comes Project Nim about the chimpanzee who was taught by humans to sign as a story of  abandonment by (almost) every human who was supposed to care for him. Based on the book by Elizabeth Hess, this is a story of the inhumane treatment by humans of an animal that became a member of a family, the subject of a scientific experiment, a laboratory test animal and a legal test case.

Originally envisaged as a means of showing how animals can acquire syntax, thereby disproving Noam Chomsky's (hence the name - geddit?!?) assertion about unique human abilities to learn language, and apparently as a way to make the main investigator, Herbert Terrace, famous, it seems Nim never conformed to humans' expectations. Surprisingly, he turned out to be a chimpanzee - but one who was able to communicate with humans.

(More clips from the film available here.)

The film was thoroughly enjoyable and comes highly recommended. If you can't get to a cinema in time, the DVD is on its way.

No comments:

Post a Comment