Chimpanzee: the virtual and the real
At this time Disney were not looking for Hollywood chimp-actors – the majority has retired and currently live in sanctuaries - , but went to Taï forest, one of the last frontiers of the free-living chimpanzees in Africa, to find Oscar, born in freedom , in a group of fewer than a dozen of its kind, which fights desperately to survive against the enemies that harass them.
“Chimpanzee, the film” has raised 10 million dollars in the first week at North-American theatres. We watched and enjoyed it. We believe Disney touched an open wound in the heart of Africa, where hundreds of chimpanzees disappear at an alarming rate.
The film made at the Taï Forest, Ivory Coast, and Uganda is masterfully narrated by Tim Allen and does not have a human actor, all are free-living chimpanzees.
Freddie is the alpha male, who lives with several females and babies. Oscar, almost three years old, is still breastfed by his mother. Oscar is gaining experience and knowing the world around him, getting to know the dangers, challenges, lack of food that forces them to walk dozens of kilometers, food that earlier was at their feet. In their battle for food - leaves, seeds, fruits - , they advance into the enemy territory of another group of chimpanzees.
In one of these meetings with another group of chimpanzees, Oscar's mother is dead. He does not know what happened to her, and looks desperately for her and does not find her. The group returns to its territory and he goes with them. He has no longer his mother's breast and her strong arms to protect him. He has to seek for his food, make his nests at night in the trees, and feel the cold and the rain in the morning that invades his body. He learns to crack nuts, climbing trees looking for fruit and honey, to eat termites and ants, catching them in their nests.
The other females do not support him. He follows Freddie, the alpha male, everywhere. Freddie realizes and extends a hand at him, and then he does the "grooming" and finally put him on his back for more extensive transfers and walks.
How long can the life of Oscar and his group last? Nobody knows, as the threats are immense. The forest is devastated and there is food scarce. More distance and dangers must be tackled in order to survive. Disease, predators, poisonous animals, hunters, Taï forest is totally vulnerable. Oscar’s group is probably one of the last that remains from the hundreds that used to exist 50 years ago.
The film ends with Oscar entering the adolescence. He will become, perhaps, an alpha male. However, his destiny is in danger. Death surrounds every corner. Disney - perhaps with fear and shame - displays a final message. A subtitle explains: "In 1960 there was a million chimpanzees at African forests, today - 50 years later - only a fifth was left ..."
What must be done to put an end in the eradication of the species?
Disney does not present a solution ... we – who also try desperately to make them live in sanctuaries - know that YES, THERE IS A SOLUTION. We have to keep fighting, get them out of the torture, of those who exhibit and exploit them, out of trafficking, of those who kill them for food ... It's a tough fight, hard, difficult, misunderstood, but they are our primitive brothers and we must give them a hand and make them live, if we want that human race also survives to its own holocaust ...
Narrator: Tim Allen
Filmed in Uganda and Ivory Coast
Directors: Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield
A film by Disney Studios
GAP Project recommends, watch the trailer: http://www.trailers.com.pt/chimpanze/
Dr. Pedro Ynterian
President, GAP Project International