Alexandru Solomon’s new documentary takes places in Sukhumi, the capital of a Georgian autonomous region called Abkhazia on the eastern coast of the Black Sea where a curious research institute is housed. Founded in the 1920s as a research facility on primates, the institute has survived wars, conflicts and collapsing nations. Now in decline, research is minimal and most income comes from small clusters of tourists.
The film skillfully intertwines the history of Abkhazia with that of the institute, tracing its decline from training Soviet space monkeys to its current obscure activities in the politically contested region. Slowly exploring the barren halls and empty cages in minimalistic images, Solomon explores the relations between man and primate as well as the eccentric workers, who might be seen as either despicably cruel or strangely compassionate towards their favorite animals. Questioning religion, Darwin, history, and humanism, Tarzan’s Testicles offers a thought-provoking glimpse into a place few knew existed.