EIFF ’11 Day Three – Arriety, Project Nim & AN EMBARGO!


The Borrower Arrietty
Studio Ghibli give a Japanese twist to the undoubtedly familiar British tale The Borrowers. If you’re like me, you’ll probably remember either the rubbish BBC2 miniseries of the Mary Norton story, or the even worse 1997 big screen version starring John Goodman; thankfully the Ghibli version breaks the mould of rubbishness we’ve been subjected to in the past.

Written by everyone’s favourite Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, we follow the headstrong Arrietty, a teenage borrower who is just old enough to start joining her father on borrowing ventures in the house of the human beans who live above. Obviously stuff quickly starts to go wrong – it wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise would it?

If you’ve read any of the borrower’s books then the story should be quite familiar to you as the film sticks close to its roots. That’s not to say however that this version is purely superfluous as this is a delightful film to watch; the animation carries all the nuance, subtlety and flair we’ve come to expect from Studio Ghibli whilst giving a sense of scale we’ve perhaps not encountered in their other efforts – it’s not only in the animation that this sense is conveyed, but also largely in the sound effects; dripping taps, whirring refrigerators and rain showers are all given a weight that effectively suggests how these every day noises would sound to people of limited stature. This animation knocked it out of the park on all levels for me and is a happy addition to the already impressive Ghibli collection and a worthwhile watch for audiences of all ages.

A word of caution though for those intending to see it at the festival – particularly those with small children; although the programme states voice talent of the likes of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, the press version I saw was subtitled. Whilst this didn’t detract from my experience whatsoever (indeed I found the Japanese dubbing only added to the charm of the whole thing) the subtitles may prove too much for the younger audience members. It’ll definitely be worth taking them to see it when it’s released with English dubbing as it’s a breath of fresh air in amongst all the rubbish 3D CG clones.

Should you go see it? Did you read the above?! Of course you should! If you can’t catch it at the festival it’s currently due a UK release on the 26th of August.

Project Nim
Coming from director James Marsh (Man on Wire) this documentary couldn’t have a better pedigree or a higher bar to reach, but Marsh proves that lightning can strike twice in this wonderfully affecting recounting of the titular Project Nim.

In the early seventies, a group of scientists from Columbia university conducted an experiment to see if a chimpanzee (Nim) raised in human surrounds could be taught to communicate using sign language – we follow their progress from Nim’s birth right through his early formative years, up until the study becomes strained and Nim gets a little bit too big to handle…

Project Nim adopts the use of standard talking heads albeit in an extremely effective way, choosing only to centre on those who were directly involved in Nim’s upbringing at each stage in his life, subtly shifting attention to and from those who are most relevant at any given point in time. It’s also told in a much fairer manner than most documentaries I’ve seen of late and pulls no punches when it comes to the conflicts and disputes between the people who were involved in Nim’s life – if somebody comes off like an egotistical idiot, then chances are that impression is deserved.

Later on in the proceedings there are some relatively disturbing scenes focused around the period of time which Nim spent in an animal testing lab, so you may need a strong stomach and some tissues on hand to get through from start to finish. It’s not all doom and gloom though and there are enough smatterings of hippy mentality and seventies ideologies to keep you grinning throughout – plus of course there’s Nim himself who proves delightful to watch.

The only real thing missing for me was a deep questioning of whether what the various scholars and teachers did throughout the project (in putting Nim into an extended science experiment) was the thing to do; whilst it seems almost undeniable that (for the most part) Nim enjoyed a better quality of life than most other chimps in captivity, that doesn’t do much to answer the ethical and moral questions surrounding the project as a whole.

Should you go and see it? Yes, absolutely – it’s the best documentary I’ve seen since yesterday, and like most great documentaries will have you leaving the cinema reflecting on and questioning what you’ve just seen.

Perfect Sense
Yowsers! Casta La Vista finds itself under its very first press embargo! We’re not allowed to pass comment on this film until Sunday so be sure to check back then for thoughts on this and Sunday’s movies.

Should you go and see it? I can’t tell you!

Well the third day was two thirds brilliant and one part mysterious! Be sure to come back tomorrow for reviews of Angel’s Crest, Albatross and Jack Goes Boating.


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