HBO has acquired all U.S. rights, including theatrical, video and broadcast, to James Marsh's anticipated "Project Nim," the opening night film of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. The film finds Marsh - the Oscar-winning director behind "Man on Wire" - depicting the story of Nim, chimpanzee who became the focus of a landmark experiment in the 1970s that aimed to prove an ape - if raised and nurtured like a human child - could learn to communicate using sign language.
"The film emerged from a well researched biography of a chimpanzee called Nim whose life in captivity was very well documented and often filmed," Marsh told indieWIRE in an interview last week. "Nim was taken from his mother when he was born and given over to a human mother to raise. This was in the early '70's and it was part of an experiment conducted by a Professor at Columbia University. The idea was to bring up the baby chimp in a human family and nurture him exactly like a human child in the expectation that he would learn language and grammar in the way that human children do. If so, he could tell us what he was thinking and how he saw the world. It's a mind boggling idea when you stop think about it." Read more of the interview with Marsh here.
Sheila Nevins, president, HBO Documentary Films made the announcement today. The deal was brokered by Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment and HBO Documentary Films. HBO will be actively seeking U.S. theatrical and DVD distribution at Sundance, and will be working with Submarine and Icon Entertainment International (IEI) on these negotiations.
HBO also owns the rights to Peter D. Richardson's "How To Die In Oregon," another Sundance title with good buzz behind it.