Story of young chimp brings another slice of 1970s eccentricity

20:12, Aug 23 2011

With its compelling true-life story, eccentric characters and dramatic tension, James Marsh's Man on Wire documentary was one of the hits of the 2009 Film Festival.

It brought back memories for those who remembered the 1974 World Trade Center "stunt" and introduced enigmatic and impish wire-walker Philippe Petit to a new generation.

Now Marsh is back with another slice of 1970s eccentricity - Project Nim (11am). It is the story of a newborn chimpanzee that was deposited into a Manhattan family home in 1973.

Named Nim Chimpsky, he was put there by Columbia University behavioural psychologist Herb Terrace, who wanted to test Noam Chomsky's thesis that language is peculiar to humans by seeing whether Nim could be taught human sign language.

However, what started out as an unusual experiment became a disastrous tale of trust and betrayal, vengeance and redemption.

More animal antics abound in Buck (6.30pm), a biopic of legendary horse trainer Buck Brannaman.

As well as inspiring The Horse Whisperer (he even trained the horses on the film version of that book), he has toured the world giving clinics on "starting" colts, using a method of firm but sensitive non-verbal instruction that some ranchers call "voodoo".

Film-maker Cindy Meehl tracks the former child-celebrity trick roper from Montana to the Carolinas as he calmly tames one unmountable wild thing after another, while also spinning stories and bits of wisdom.

Check back here each day during the festival for The Press' pick of the day and other highlights of the programme. More information is available on The Press Entertainment pages or at the film festival website here.


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