The cast of characters involved in a 1970s experiment to teach sign language to a chimp are almost as fun as the monkey at the center of this documentary. They're the quirkiest kind of intellectuals, hippies, bleeding hearts, and evil scientists. Everyone was sleeping with everyone (except for Nim the chimp … we think), and what began as an experiment on the development of language and human-animal communication quickly became an informal study of human closeness and loyalty. Director James Marsh (Man on Wire) blends loads of original footage with contemporary reenactments and interviews. Characters leap off the screen, and each one is acutely complex, with virtues and faults shown in equal measure. Maybe it’s paradoxical that in documenting an experiment famous for being utterly unscientific, Marsh invites us to take a scientist’s role: not to judge so much as to observe. And just like the actual chimp experiment, the results may be inconclusive. But you’re going to have a damn good time.
Director: James Marsh
Writer: Elizabeth Hess
Producer: Simon Chinn
Cast: Bob Angelini, Bern Cohen, Herbert Terrace, Stephanie LaFarge, Jenny Lee, Laura-Ann Petitto, Joyce Butler, Bill Tynan, Renee Falitz and Bob Ingersoll