Politicians and billionaire media moguls have intense power squabbles, but chimpanzees take it to a whole new level. Like us, they’re highly intelligent, deeply emotional and often can’t help but vie for power — perhaps no surprise for creatures who share over 98% of our DNA.
If you’re thinking that the drama and discord of it all lend itself more to an hour-long prestige drama than a nature doc, think again: The four-part docuseries Chimp Empire directed by Academy Award winner James Reed (My Octopus Teacher) and narrated by Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) follows the fascinating lives of the Ngogo chimps as they raise their young, navigate complex social dynamics and attempt to climb to the top of the hierarchy — even if they have to die trying.
What happens to the Ngogo chimps?
Uganda’s Kibale National Park is home to the Ngogo community, the largest known group of chimpanzees in the world. Typically, chimps live in groups of approximately 50 to 60 members — the Ngogo chimps had about 120 chimps living together before splitting into two hostile factions, which is where Reed says his involvement in the story of the Chimp Empire began.
“The scientists who worked there were telling me all this news: ‘You won’t believe it, the Ngogo group has finally split. This is completely unprecedented,’ ” he tells Tudum.
“We have no idea what will happen now. Will they reunite peacefully? Will they go to war? We’d reached a historic moment. It was going to be new for science, and it also provided a really unique opportunity to film a story about this amazing, dramatic situation in the forest.”
Where is Chimp Empire filmed?
Ngogo, Uganda has been a site of scientific fascination for decades. Scientists involved with the Ngogo Chimpanzee Project track and study the remote region’s chimps, living in a nearby camp surrounded by miles of rainforest in every direction.
Who are the Ngogo chimps?
The Ngogo chimps of Chimp Empire are divided into two factions at odds with each other: The Central group, and the Western group. Both tribes patrol the borderlands between them, on guard for any hints that their rivals have invaded, with potentially lethal results. The filmmakers spent over a year in the Ngogo forest documenting the chimps, capturing everything from their cutthroat conflicts, stubborn personalities and surprising grooming politics.
Who narrates Chimp Empire?
Chimp Empire is narrated by Multi-time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali.
All four episodes of Chimp Empire are available to stream globally on Netflix.
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