project nim: it’s good. i’m just a negative ned.

jenn and i just watched ‘project nim,’ a documentary about a chimp that was taught sign language. it was an incredible story, heartwarming at times, sickening at others. i think it’s an important story that deserves to be told. i think it’s worth watching.

but i wouldn’t say it was a great film.

the thing is, the real life events and the people involved in the story of nim are strong enough to make it a powerful, emotionally-charged film. it’s pretty much a ‘can’t lose’ film-making situation, unless you were a grade 10 film student, and even then they might be able to pull it off. it would look crappy and cheap but those strong core elements would still carry the film and give it impact. similarly, i think that the people who made this film made some cheesy choices that certainly didn’t ruin the film, but did really annoy me.

for example, when any of the people being interviewed reach their end in the story of nim, we see the person sitting in the interview chair and then the shot slides off to the side until the person is literally ‘out of the picture.’ it happened once and i thought, “that’s kind of funny. i wonder if they meant it literally.” then it happened several more times, and i was annoyed. it seemed like such a silly, childish, vaguely pretentious way of indicating each person’s end in the story. it’s unnecessary.

there were also dramatizations, lame reenactments of events that were not originally caught on film. i always hate those. they remind me of crappy crime stoppers commercials and that old show, unsolved mysteries (except unsolved mysteries was freaky and awesome). so cheap, so ridiculous-looking. like this.

another thing i hated was along with reenactments, the film used photographs that depicted events that were similar to the particular story being told, but obviously not actually related. i’ll make one up to clearly illustrate the mismatch. again, this is not actually in the film, this is just me doing an impression of a technique the film makers used.

“and then nim suddenly jumped on bob’s back and started attacking him viciously [cue screaming chimp sounds]”

we can clearly see nim is just hanging out on bob’s back and there is no vicious attack going on. they’re both relaxed and having a good time. the only commonality is that nim is on bob’s back. i think that trying to say anything else about a picture like that is both misleading and insulting to the audience’s intelligence. it’s another cheap, crappy way of creating visuals for a story which, unfortunately for the film makers, has none.

the weird thing is that i feel shitty for being annoyed with these aspects of the film. like i said, i think it is an important story that needed to be told, and the film makers did just that. so kudos to them. i know they did far better than i could have, considering the limits of the source material which dates back to the early 70’s. besides, the film has resonated with many people, which is the most important part. so i wish i could look past the details that bug me and just say “it’s awesome, check it out,” without giving some kind of disclaimer about stylistic choices i disagreed with. but i think i would be a phony if i did that.

i still think it’s good and well worth checking out. just kind of annoying sometimes.

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4 thoughts on “project nim: it’s good. i’m just a negative ned.

  1. Hey I’m Bob from the film and it never said Nim jumped on my back or any of that stuff you say in this review. Can you please watch the film and pay attention this time. Bob Ingersoll

    1. hi bob. i thought it was pretty clear that i made up my own example of a mismatched picture/story but i’ll edit it to make it more clear.

      i think it’s apparent that i paid a lot of attention to the film though. how could i bitch so much about little details otherwise?

  2. It was not clear at all. I think they did a darn good job on this film myself, perhaps a bit bias there, but judging by the response and the continued response by everyone who I speak with about it the message I think is a good one. As far as film technique and style those are the judgements of the director a pretty accomplished one I think and in my opinion I think he and the producer did quite well and I am pleased with the result as I am sure Nim is wherever he might be. That is a matter of style and everyone is not going to like every style. Clearly you don’t like James and Simon’s techniques and style, but clearly many people do. Including me. Bob Ingersoll Participant Project Nim

    My suggestion to viewers watch the film yourself and come to your own conclusions about it. This review I think is not representative of the vast majority of viewers, so see it for yourself don’t rely on this review. BOB

    1. now i’m wondering if YOU actually read MY post — i mentioned in it several times that i think the film has substantial value in that it tells an important story, that it had a significant emotional impact on me, that it has obviously resonated with lots of people. i even clearly say “THIS MOVIE IS GOOD,” both in the title and a few times the blog itself. can’t get any clearer than that. but believing those things doesn’t preclude any criticism of the film whatsoever — in other words, i liked it a lot but there were some things i didn’t like, and that’s all i have said here. i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

      i don’t give a damn if this post is representative of the vast majority of viewers. this blog is for MY take on stuff, not ‘the vast majority of viewers take on stuff.’ everyone interested in the film should absolutely see it and judge it for themselves, which is all i did. i never suggested otherwise.

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