Written by Daniel Honan, a Big Think blogger
If you’re heading to the movies this summer, chances are you’ll see apes acting like humans on the big screen. In two very different films released this month, seemingly human or super-human intelligence is achieved in apes–in one case through the manipulation of nature, and in the other case through nurture. The first film is the blockbuster, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a reboot of the 1960s Planet of the Apes science fiction franchise that dramatizes an ape rebellion and the subsequent struggle from primate supremacy in a post-Apocalyptic world.
Many will find this film a welcome distraction from all the news of real-life wars, riots and financial meltdowns we’ve experienced this summer. And yet it is another film about apes–in this case, chimpanzees–that promises to provoke big thinking.
James Marsh’s new film, Project Nim, tells the story of a chimpanzee that was taken from its mother at birth and placed under the care of a human mother. The Chimp, named Nim Chimpsky–after linguist Noam Chomsky–was the subject of a radical animal language acquisition study. Raised as a human and taught sign language, it was thought that Nim would be able to acquire enough words and grammar to communicate with humans. Nim develops a vocabulary of 120 words along with a strong inclination for biting people.
Big Think recently interviewed James Marsh about this film. Read the interview after watching the trailer of Project Nim here:
Next page: An interview with James Marsh
Photo from tom hartley via flickr creative commons
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