“Project Nim”: Sundance winner debuts Dec. 20 on HBO
The documentary “Project Nim” centers on the life of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee born at the Institute for Primate Studies at the University of Oklahoma in 1973, and how he is taken from his mother a few days after his birth and made the subject of an experiment entitled “Project Nim.”
The project, led by Columbia psychology professor Herb Terrace, is designed to show that a chimpanzee can learn to communicate with language if raised like a human
“Project Nim,” winner of the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, premieres at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20 on HBO.
Nim is brought to New York City and lives with Stephanie LaFarge and her family, who work on teaching Nim to communicate with sign language, although they have no experience and minimal knowledge relating to chimpanzees.
Nim is pretty much given free rein to do as he pleases.
Although LaFarge, a former student of Terrace’s, has success teaching Nim sign language and bonds with the chimp, Nim’s time with her is completely unstructured.
This causes Terrace, who spends very little time with Nim himself, to take Nim away from LaFarge, and the chimp’s journey continues with travels back and forth to Columbia with psychology student Laura Petitto before the pair is moved into a mansion owned by Columbia where sign language education continues.
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