Chimp Empire Season 1 Review – Yes, This Is Real and Not CGI

By Amanda Guarragi
Published: April 19, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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Chimp Empire Season 1 Review - Real or CGI
Chimp Empire Season 1 Promotional Image (Credit - Netflix)


An in-depth social analysis of the chimpanzees in the forest of Uganda and their communities.

In Chimp Empire, Mahershala Ali narrates the lives of chimps in the wild. Out of all the animals in our world, humans and chimps have the same intellectual thread. They live like humans with their own language. Over years, humans have learned that chimps can understand humans on the same level as other humans. In a way, it’s almost like a thin line that separates the species. The series is so incredible, some audiences have questioned where the series is real or CGI.

In Uganda, a vast community of chimpanzees live in a forest. They navigate social politics, family dynamics, and dangerous territory disputes.

These four episodes explore the intellect within the community of chimpanzees. They have the systems that work for them and their power structures that work within different groupings.

Apart from the simple observation of their habitat and community, to see these primates in the wild is something to see. The reason why it is good is that it has some beautiful cinematography, and the direction of each episode allows audiences to be placed in the forest with them.

It takes you into their world, fully immersing you while learning about their lives. Even Mahershala Ali’s narration makes this engaging, and so does the score.

There’s only so much you can do when filming the chimpanzees, and a lot of work went into making this compelling in post-production.

It’s not a nature documentary, but it has more of a story. It goes deeper than explaining facts. Ali builds an emotional connection with the stories within the community of the chimpanzees to make others understand how they live.


All in all, Chimp Empire is worth watching because of what they decide to explore in the four episodes. It’s fascinating to see how they build their community, move from territories, and settle their differences.

It’s definitely odd to talk about a community of chimpanzees as having political dynamics and social interactions with other families, but it makes so much sense. We see how animals operate within the animal kingdom, and it’s how humans also interact.

It always comes down to respect and loyalty to your community, and that’s exactly what is shown here. It’s important to see that each chimp has a story, and Ali explores who they are as they interact with other community members.

Some were born close to each other, and other chimps have been on opposing sides of the community for a while. As humans, we have been socially conditioned since the day we were born, and it is a significant connection that humans have with chimpanzees.

We never think about other species because we rarely interact with them, but when a docu-series such as this one comes out, it’s important to understand that many species in the world go through the same thing.

Is Chimp Empire on Netflix Real or Fake with CGI?

Chimp Empire is entirely real. It appears unreal due to the unbelievable talent of the film crew. Chimps travel through the forest at lightning speeds during moments of high aggression, so it took months of tracking for the sequences to come together.

Reed told Netflix, “It’s like being on The Truman Show or something — you feel like you’re on a set, because you can’t quite believe they’re real. They’re so human, you know that they’re assessing you in the same way that you’re assessing them. You can’t quite believe that they accept you into their world.”

Why would some viewers believe Chimp Empire is fake?

Viewers may believe Chimp Empire is fake due to the cutthroat competition between the Central and Western groups of chimpanzees. It seems almost too dramatic to be real. Some viewers on X (formerly Twitter) expressed this view:

In fact, Reed didn’t know that the Ngogo group would split and cause a chain reaction of terrifying battles. He told Netflix 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.”

Filming Locations

Kibale National Park (Credit – Destination Uganda)

Chimp Empire was filmed at the Kibale National Park in Uganda. Reed, his film crew, and scientists filmed the Ngogo chimps for over a year. The Ngogo community is the world’s largest known group of chimpanzees.

During filming, the community had separated into two warring factions. Filmmakers were present for the chimps’ fight for supremacy between the Central and Western Groups.

Chimp Empire was filmed in a remote rainforest. A researcher told Netflix, “This is a mid-altitude rainforest, we’re almost a mile up, there are a lot of hills, the vegetation is thick, the forest is dark, chimpanzees are black… It’s probably the worst filmmaking environment you could ask for.”

Filming Ugandan chimpanzees was a dangerous task. Before filming in January 2021, Reed brought together a crew who spent most of the 18-month-long shoot in the chimps’ habitat, which was anything but friendly.

However, the chimps had their wholesome moments, especially when Abrams danced in the rain.

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