Project Nim (film)

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Project Nim
Project Nim poster.jpg
Directed byJames Marsh
Produced bySimon Chinn
Based onNim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human
by Elizabeth Hess
StarringBob Angelini
Bern Cohen
Renne Falitz
Bob Ingersoll
Music byDickon Hinchliffe
CinematographyMichael Simmonds
Edited byJinx Godfrey
Distributed byIcon Film Distribution
Release date
  • 20 January 2011 (2011-01-20) (Sundance)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$410,077(US)

Project Nim is a 2011 British documentary film. It focuses on Project Nim, a research project that was mounted in the 1970s to determine whether a primate raised in close contact with humans could develop a limited "language" based on American Sign Language.[1] The project was centred on a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky.[1]


The film was first publicly shown during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and then released for public exhibition on 8 July 2011.


In 2019, Herbert S. Terrace, who led the research on Nim, published the book Why Chimpanzees Can’t Learn Language and Only Humans Can. There, he explained how he perceived the documentary Project Nim as "mainly an ad hominem attack" on himself. Terrace stated that the allegation that he had returned Nim to the primate colony as punishment for his failing to learn sign language is untrue. Besides, Terrace criticised how the documentary represented a "complete failure to present the scientific background of the work" done and "its theoretical significance."[2]

Reception and awards[edit]

Project Nim was released to critical acclaim. The film has received an aggregated score of 98% from 131 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

The film has won 15 and was nominated for 27 awards, including Best Documentary at the 65th British Academy Film Awards.

Home media[edit]

The DVD was released on 7 February 2012 by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.[4]


  1. ^ a b Kappala-Ramsamy, Gemma. "Nim Chimpsky: the chimp they tried to turn into a human". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  2. ^ Terrace, Herbert S. (2019). Why Chimpanzees Can't Learn Language and Only Humans Can. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-55001-7.
  3. ^ "Project Nim (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  4. ^ Tønnessen, Morten; Armstrong Oma, Kristin; Rattasepp, Silver (2016). Thinking about Animals in the Age of the Anthropocene. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 230.

External links[edit]