[monkeywire] New film..."Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History" this Sunday
ctrkgrendel at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 2 10:23:05 EST 2006
This new documentary will air as the season opener for PBS Nature series on Sunday, November 5th at 8 p.m. The main focus is biomedical research chimps coming out of labs to the Fauna Foundation in Canada
and to Save the Chimps sanctuary in Ft. Pierce. But there are also a few minutes about the entertainment chimpanzees and a short visit to the Center for Great Apes. P.
By BRIDGET BYRNE, For The Associated Press
Monday, October 30, 2006
(10-30) 18:42 PST Pasadena, Calif. (AP) --
"Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History" is a program that will probably make
many viewers cry.
But Allison Argo felt she had to stay as dry-eyed and clear-sighted as
possible while making this documentary, which she also narrates.
It can't have been easy.
The documentary, which on Sunday night launches the 25th season of
PBS'"Nature" (see local listings), explores the sad story of generations
of captive chimps - our very genetically close relatives, with almost 99
percent of the same DNA as humans.
"I try not to tell people what they should feel or think in the film,"
the filmmaker said.
"As I was writing the narration I kept saying, `Just the facts. No
comment. Don't get emotional,' and again when I was reading it, the
same, because you don't need to. Let people decide what they want to
decide. Just present the story, present the characters, which are the
chimps," Argo said.
Gloria Grow doesn't have any intention of being objective. Her eyes
often rimmed with tears earlier this year as she accompanied Argo to a
series of press conferences and interviews to discuss the documentary.
Grow and her husband, veterinarian Dr. Richard Allan, run the Fauna
Foundation, which has become a haven for abused animals, including
chimps used in biological research. Even chimps that were once people's
pets, or performed to audience laughter in circuses and commercials, can
end up in research facilities. Once they get to about five or six years
old and can no longer be handled safely they are often dumped in medical
laboratories or imprisoned in isolation.
Grow's nonprofit foundation, based near Montreal, Canada, is featured in
So, too, is Dr. Carole Noon's Save the Chimps group, of which she is
founder and director. The nonprofit central Florida organization works
to create a safe and suitable habitat for chimpanzees, such as those
used in numerous experiments by the United States Air Force, which in
1959 captured dozens of baby chimps in Africa. These naturally social
animals, whose life span in the wild mirrors humans, have long been
locked in separate cages, taken out only to be used in grueling,
dangerous, and painful research, which may or may not ultimately benefit
One of the chimps featured in the program is Lou, a 42 year old veteran
of the Air Force programs.
The documentary is about "the chimps having a voice finally," said Grow.
"Allison Argo was able to speak on their behalf ... about the tragedy of
The sight of an aged chimp, a victim of years of confinement, trying to
summon up the courage to walk free beneath the sky, is just one of the
many devastatingly emotional moments in Argo's movie.
"I'm not a raving animal-rights person, but I do think there is a need
for accountability," said Argo.
She understands, she said, there are other points of view than the
animal-lovers' about the use of chimps in research. But the medical
community she tried to have a dialogue with, she said, chose not to
"I couldn't even get the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to grant us
an interview," she said, adding that laboratories can't or won't supply
any detailed records.
Argo, who made the Emmy-winning 2000 documentary "The Urban Elephant"
for "Nature," said the film took nearly three years to make, because,
"It's such a complex topic and there are so many hot buttons that it
really needed to be researched thoroughly."
Despite all the sadness in the film, Argo feels it can be viewed in a
"I think that the main thing that gives me hope it that I don't think
people realize what happens. I think people who laugh at the chimps in
the commercials just don't know. The purpose of this film is to just
open the window so that people can look into (the chimps') lives, see
what's on the other side, the dark side, and what the consequences are."
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