Oscar-winning director James Marsh returns to EIFF with another knock-out documentary
James Marsh returns to Edinburgh International Film Festival with his sophomore feature documentary, Project Nim. His last film, Man on Wire, which also had its European Premiere here at EIFF in 2008, went on to win an Academy Award. We caught up with the Oscar-winner to find out more.
“Project Nim is the story about a chimpanzee that’s taken from its family when it’s born and given to a human family to bring up as if it were a human child,” says Marsh. “The idea is to see if it can learn language in the way that human children do. In a sense it’s about nature and nurture: a chimp has a certain nature, so what will come out when he’s brought up a human being will be very interesting. The film takes that idea and then follows this chimpanzee from the moment he’s born until he dies.”
Taking a cinematic approach to documentary story-telling, Marsh weaves simple reconstructions with engrossing interviews to tell the life story of a subject that’s almost human. “We’re so often sentimental about animal’s behaviour and projecting things onto them. This was an attempt to see what the animal is actually like.” So what was Nim really like? “What I liked about Nim more than anything else that he showed me was that he is by nature a hedonist. There’s some very big surprises in Nim’s story that I’d rather find out for yourself.”
This post was originally published by Edinburgh International Film Festival.