, a hot new filmmaker, spends her days on sets adjusting equipment, editing clips, communicating orders and enjoying long lunches. Her hard work has paid off, since she’s had at least one film, Oedipe, accepted byÂ the Clermont-Ferrand film festival in France.
Capucine would appear to be like any budding young filmmaker, except for the fact that she’s a capuchin monkey. Her works are being touted as the first ever to be filmed and directed by a non-human animal.
You can see Capucine barking orders through her megaphone at the website for the Research Center on Animal Language in Japan. A short film on that page also shows the petite primate at work. The monkey filmmaking project is the brainchild of Japanese primatologist and film fanatic Hirokazu Shibuya.
Shibuya says Capucine has “worked in the laboratory for 10 years for the training. That’s why she could do that. (Oedipe) is her film. She’s the director.”
Capucine is said to enjoy King Kong and ET. She plays Donkey Kong in her spare time.
The monkey, along with others at Shibuya’s facility, originally underwent training to become service animals for disabled individuals. Capucine was given to a quardriplegic man as his helper. He and others began to notice that the monkey was interested in television and cameras, according to a new documentary, Capucine. Her talent helped to inspire the filmmaking project at the Japanese primate research center.
Director Luis Nieto now turns the tables on Capucine, showing her and her primate colleagues wearing specially fitted headphones, carrying tiny boom microphones, slapping down miniature clapperboards and handling other typical filmmaking tasks. Capucine even has her own director’s chair from which she calls out orders to her human assistants using her megaphone.
As to the monkey director’s talent, when compared to human filmmakers, the reviews are mixed. Some critics thought Oedipe was just a “cut and paste” job, but others praised its originiality and modern approach, according to a New Scientist story on Capucine.
The below clip, in both French and English, features Capucine and Hirokazu Shibuya at the festival. A few segments from Oedipe are also shown.
The past few years have seen a growing interest in animals trained to perform more human-like tasks. There can be a practical application for this, per the service animal side of Shibuya’s work. Owners that train their pets to play instruments, such as Norah, the piano playing cat, often use them to teach kids or for other charity work.
But when should we consider such treatment of animals to be abusive? Are we going back to the circus animal freak show mentality, so popular in the 19th century? I’m curious what you think.