[monkeywire] New film..."Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History" this Sunday

Benjamin Bayliss 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
  the documentary.
  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
  their lives."
  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
  positive light.
  "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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