Project Nim, directed by James Marsh, gave us a very different insight into the study of language. Mr. Marsh directed the academy award winning Man on Wire, and we were genuinely excited about anything new from him. This film is about the notorious experiment in the ‘70s to raise a chimpanzee in a human environment and teach it sign language. Let’s just say that the best thing about this experiment was the name given to the chimp (Nim Chimpsky), both a pun on and an intended refutation of the dominant linguistic theorist of the time, Noam Chomsky.
There are several great things about the film, however. One is the wealth of archival footage providing what looks like a satire of the liberal ‘70s. Nim is raised for a time by a hippy family in a brownstone on the upper west side, dressed in groovy outfits, given tokes off a doobie, occasionally breast fed, and generally allowed to run free with the other children of the era. He gets caught up in various love triangles and self-serving lifestyles of the students teaching him language.