We reached out to our festival filmmakers to ask them questions about the experience of making their films.
What inspired this story?
Director and Producer James Reed: I first got interested in this story while studying footage of a chimp called Pincer years previously. There was something very strange about him I thought and after a while I realised what it was. He had human eyes – white sclera around the outside of the eye which allowed you to follow gaze, see where he was looking. I did a bit of research and discovered that according to the scientific record, officially chimps don’t have this. It is a uniquely human trait, which evolved with our own advanced cooperation. Then I discovered that Pincer was a member of the largest and most violent chimpanzee community ever known and that they had been studied and filmed by scientists for the last 25 years. That inspired me to look into what happened across that 25 year period and that’s when I came across a story that is as epic and dramatic as any feature film.
Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film.
JR: Condensing an extraordinary 25 year true story into 90 minute film was one of the biggest challenges. Simply going through decades worth of video recordings taken by the Ngogo scientists was a huge undertaking. They came out of a dusty box at Yale University about a year before the edit and I spent months trawling through hundreds of hours of footage, searching for story threads with specific chimpanzee characters. Often the challenge is finding enough story to fill a film, but with the Ngogo chimps, and the scientists who study them, deciding what to leave out was the biggest challenge.