May 24, 2012 - Claremont, Calif. -
The annual festival showcases international and emerging artists.
“Primate Cinema: Apes as Family” is a two-screen documentary made for and with chimpanzees. The right side of the screen shows a drama Mayeri scripted and filmed, while the left side reveals the chimpanzees’ reactions to it.
Mayeri created the drama portion of the project in Los Angeles with seven actors dressed as chimpanzees. It depicts the story of a young female chimp that befriends a group of outsiders. While the film features human settings such as a kitchen, it includes objects—such as fruit and vegetables—and behaviors familiar to apes.
She filmed the chimps’ reactions during a yearlong project at the Edinburgh Zoo, in which chimpanzees voluntarily watched the drama on a television screen placed in their enclosure. Mayeri worked with comparative psychologist Sarah-Jane Vick to observe the chimps’ responses and explore issues of cognition and communication in research primates.
Although giving chimps a television to watch is a common enrichment practice, “Primate Cinema” is the first effort to script a drama specifically for their viewing.
The film premiered at the 2011 Abandon Normal Devices Festival in Liverpool, which celebrates new cinema, digital culture and art. It was later displayed at The Arts Catalyst in London, the Nottingham Center for Contemporary Art and the Arts Electronica in Linz, where it won a prize for a work in progress.
New Scientist featured “Primate Cinema” in a story last fall. The film also captured coverage from the Canadian Discovery Channel and the BBC.
Commissioned by The Arts Catalyst, the project received financial support from the Arts Council of England, the Aix-Marseille Institute of Advanced Studies, a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and a research grant from Harvey Mudd College.
A trailer for the film can be viewed here.
Media Contact: Judy Augsburger