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Monkey Love Experiments — Ainslie Henderson and Will Anderson, 2015

A little monkey named Gandhi lives in a lab, the subject of "Monkey Love Experiments”. Based at the time of the moon landing, he watches this new space adventure unfold on the television, dreaming of a journey into space where he can escape the confines of his tiny cell.

The gorgeous stop-motion was inspired by the true-life experiments on rhesus monkeys in the 1960s.

Classroom Activities

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Critical

  • Before you watch, what does the title tell you about this short film? What do you think it will be about?
  • Listen to the first 21 seconds of the film without the image. Can you tell what is happening? What clues do you get?
  • Watch up to 00:45 seconds. Where is the film set? What details of the mise-en-scène help you to figure this out? (Mise-en-scène means everything in the shot – props, furniture, costumes, actors…)
  • Watch up to 02:49 mins. What sort of programme is on the television? What is being reported on?
  • Immediately after we see this programme, what type of camera shot is used? Why?
  • At this point, music also kicks in. What is the music telling us to feel?
  • Watch from 03:09 to 03:58 mins. Can you describe what is happening here?
  • How do we know that the monkey is distressed?
  • Watch up to 05:34 mins. What do we see Gandhi doing?
  • Why do you think we see so many close-ups of the moon?
  • Can you explain what happens at the end of the film? Do you think this is a satisfactory ending?
  • Why do you think the filmmakers chose a mixture of live action and animation to tell this story?

Cultural

  • The film is based on the true story of “Monkey Love Experiments” carried out by a psychologist called Harry Harlow who was trying to prove that monkeys, and by extension humans, needed love to function. Do you think it was morally right for these experiments to be carried out on animals? Explain your answer.
  • In 1969, one of the biggest scientific advances in human history took place, as depicted in this film. The moon landings were more than 50 years ago, but still hold great fascination for people. Find out 5 fascinating facts about the moon landings.
  • What do you think the next advancement in space exploration will be?
  • The monkey in the film is called Gandhi, named after a famous historical figure. Find out who Gandhi was and why he is such a revered person long after his death.

Creative

WRITE

  • What is unrequited love? What would you do for love? Are you willing to make a sacrifice for love? Have you ever heard of “courtly love”? Research it and try and explain what you understand by it. It is not the same as unrequited love! Write a poem or a piece of prose about any kind of love.

MAKE

  • Have a go at making your own Gandhi the monkey using Play-Doh, Plasticine or other craft materials.
  • Use your model to do a stop motion sequence of something which happens in the film.

DRAW

  • Imagine if Gandhi the monkey actually went out into space like we see him pretending to do as he watches it on television. Make a storyboard of 8-10 frames showing how this story would happen.

STEM

  • Do a project on animal testing. Look for information on how monkeys are used in experiments. Research alternative methods of scientific investigation.
  • Design and make a model of the rocket Gandhi would go up into space in.

SOCIAL SUBJECTS

  • Find out more about Harry Harlow’s “Monkey Love Experiments”. How did people react at the time? Look for information on how these experiments are viewed now. Explain why attitudes have changed.