British filmmaker James Marsh has explored one of the most bizarre scientific experiments of recent times in his riveting new film, Project Nim.
Nim Chimpsky was a chimp that was taken away from his mother in a controversial 1970s experiment to raise him as human in order to test out the radical theory that man and his closest relative could learn to talk to each other.
After the end of the experiment, Nim was flown back to the Oklahoma research centre where he was got fewer than four years earlier.
Unfortunately for Nim, the drugs were to get a lot worse than cannabis. In 1982, he and most of the other chimps were sold by their hard-up owner to a medical research laboratory for Aids and hepatitis vaccine experiments.
After efforts to free him, Nim was sent to an animal sanctuary in Texas, where he could be safe from abuse if not boredom, as its sole chimp.
Nim died a few years later, in 2000, of a heart attack, minutes after signalling ‘hurry’ to the volunteer making his breakfast. He was just 26 — tragically young for chimps, which will normally live to 60 in captivity.
Marsh’s film, which relates through a mixture of archive footage, re-enactments and interviews with those who took part in the early-Seventies experiment, ultimately says more about human arrogance than simian intelligence.