I find that the researchers in the Nim experiment had an incredible opportunity to work with a species that is so similar to us as humans. Given the challenge to teach a Nim, the chimpanzee, sign language to the point of sentence formation and correct syntax, researchers built relationships throughout the duration of the experiment. The interaction between the researchers and the chimpanzee created a story of friendship, love, and science. The film was able to convey the great amount of emotion and attachment involved with this social science expereiment.
Nim Chimpsky and head researcher Herb Terrace
The chance to live with a chimpanzee would not be the same as living with another domesticated animal. Cats and dogs are fun and loving, but living with a chimp allows for a relationship with a species that has community, friendship, and strong emotion. Imagine how different life would be with another thumbed creature in the house. Nim was able to dress in human clothes, enjoy “social pleasures”, and even help with chores. The film continuously emphasizes the human nature of Nim throughout the movie. It even goes to the extent to stress that Nim was almost taken to court to help plead his case of inhumane treatment of chimpanzees.
Also, it was these human traits of Nim that made the researchers so attached to him. From the beginning, Nim favored some people over others; for example, he would attach himself more to Stephanie than he would to Weir. Nim and Stephanie’s relationship went so far as to her finding interest in Nim’s sexual curiosities and obsessions. Also, the film further proved the researchers attraction to the chimp through emotional interviews with crying, sobbing, and strong language. Because of this, I felt the film spoke more to the life of chimpanzees in the human world than the ability for chimps to learn human sign language. Although the film did not discuss extensive detail of the social experiment, it did give a great biography of the project and Nim Chimpsky’s life.