Jesse Eisenberg Hosts 'Sasquatch Sunset' Screening for Apes


Jesse Eisenberg‘s latest Sasquatch Sunset audience looked a little different than your typical film screening. The actor-producer took his movie back to the source material this week, showing it to a group of bonobos at Ape Initiative in Des Moines, Iowa.

The film, released at Sundance earlier this year, features Eisenberg and co-star Riley Keough dressed in prosthetic bodysuits to portray a family of sasquatches journeying across North America. The actors attended “ape camp” to learn how to move as their primate characters for the David and Nathan Zellner written-directed film, which hit select theaters on April 12.

In People‘s footage of Eisenberg and the Zellners’ visit, several of the primates watch the film closely. “The bonobos were very curious about Sasquatch Sunset,” Dr. Jared Taglialatela, the director of Ape Initiative, and Dr. Sara Skiba, Ape Initiative’s director of communication, told the outlet. “For many of the bonobos, they have never seen a film about creatures that look and act so much like them but are also so similar to humans.”

Eisenberg said the experience left him remembering his own preparation for the film. “Watching them was pretty interesting after spending time thinking about those movements,” he said. “What I found so funny, and what reminded me of doing it, was this very relaxed attitude.”

Taglialatela also told Eisenberg and the Zellners that “you nailed a lot of the stuff” in regards to their depiction of bonobo-like creatures in the movie. “I was very, very impressed by that.”

Ape Initiative in Iowa is the only bonobo research center in the world, and its scientists are tasked with providing the primate residents with “stimulating enrichment items that keep their minds and hands engaged.” Exposure to film and TV, the doctors explained, is part of this.

“The bonobos can choose what to watch using their touchscreen computers,” they said. “For example, the staff will pull up Netflix on the touchscreen computer, and [primate resident] Teco will swipe through the movies and select what he wants to watch by tapping on the cover.”

During the Sasquatch Sunset screening, some of the bonobos reached out to touch the sasquatch characters onscreen. “Teco punched the screen when the Alpha Sasquatch appeared,” Dr. Taglialatela and Dr. Skiba said. “As a matriarchal species, bonobo females are in charge of the group. Teco is the son of our matriarch, Elikya, and he gets his status from his mom. This may, in part, explain his reaction to the Alpha Sasquatch in the film.”

Nevertheless, the film has steep competition if it wants to garner good reviews from its primate audience. Teco, for example, loves Disney’s Frozen and Moana and Netflix’s Is It Cake?

“The bonobos all have different preferences when it comes to the genre of movies and shows that they like to watch,” Taglialatela and Skiba said. “Kanzi loves action films like HookCatwoman, and Nacho Libre.”

They continued: “When Twilight is on, Nyota will sit in front of the screen, head bobbing and blowing kisses to Kristen [Stewart]’s character, Bella.”

Bonobos are currently endangered, Taglialatela explained. “They’re only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said. “Their numbers are declining in the wild, and it’s mostly due to the activity of humans. So we’re trying to do out best to educate the world about these wonderful creatures and share what we learn with students of all ages with the eventual goal of being able to reverse that decline.”



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