Hot Docs 2014 Review: See No Evil
A trio of primates past their prime takes center stage in this quiet, cinematic Dutch exploration. They are, as presented in the film, a former movie star named Cheeta, a savvy linguist known as Kanzi, and an anonymous, infirmed former lab experiment and patient.
If nothing else, we get to see them up close and personal; well, there actually isn’t much else. Each are in their golden years, and we only learn a bit about their past, and all of that is through archival footage. Instead, for the nearly the entirety of the film, we watch them lounge, meander, eat, celebrate, and play at their various retirement homes.
It’s initially cute and charming, but that fades away by the third act. There is no commentary; an occasional human will pop up and chat with someone nearby, but none of that really matters. Director Jos de Putter isn’t interested in human thoughts or theories, isn’t interested in the science or experiments.
Instead, it’s just the simians and how they live now. Towards the end, archival footage shows the now-crippled primate being tested on by techs in blue outfits, and it’s momentarily troubling, but this isn’t an issue film. There is a cheeky comment written on screen by the director at the end, but that only serves to make the film’s message that more much unclear and uneven.
The three stars are telegenic, but there isn’t anything else going on in this narrative-less animal doc.