Nénette is an old lady: born in 1969 in the forests of Borneo, she has just turned 40, a venerable age for an orangutan, as this film begins.
A resident of the menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris since 1972, she has spent more time there than any member of the staff. The unrivalled star of the place, she sees hundreds of visitors file past her cage each day. Although focused on Nénette, this completely unique documentary is as much about humans as it is about the animals they come to visit. Two men, discussing her small habitat, rationalize: "It's Paris. Rent is expensive." A child points out: "She is the same age as daddy." Lovely and philosophically inquisitive, Nénette is a portrait you won't soon forget.
Director Nicolas Philibert, who became engrossed with Nénette when he visited the zoo, previously charmed audiences around the world with To Be and To Have (2002), his documentary portrait of a one-room school in rural France, and challenged all preconceptions of communication with In the Land of the Deaf (1994). Also showing is Night Falls on the Ménagerie, Philibert's short film about the rest of the zoo during off-hours. (81 mins., video)