Jesse Eisenberg Visits Ape Center to Screen “Sasquatch Sunset” for His Primate Fans (Exclusive)

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Eisenberg took inspiration from bonobos and other primates while preparing for his role in 'Sasquatch Sunset'

<p>Bleecker Street/YouTube</p> Teco the bonobo watching "Sasquatch Sunset" at Ape Initiative

Bleecker Street/YouTube

Teco the bonobo watching "Sasquatch Sunset" at Ape Initiative

Jesse Eisenberg gave his muses a sneak peek at his new film.

Eisenberg, 40, stars in the upcoming Sasquatch Sunset, a film directed by David Zellner and Nathan Zellner about a family of sasquatches who go on a year-long journey across North America's forests.

For the movie, Eisenberg and his costars, including Riley Keough, donned custom prosthetic bodysuits and masks and went through "Ape Camp" to learn how to move and embody a non-human species.

Now that the Sasquatch Sunset is complete and arriving in theaters on April 19, Eisenberg wanted to surprise some of the animals who informed his Sasquatch performance: bonobos, one of humanity's closest animal relatives.

The actor, who also helped produce Sasquatch Sunset, recently went to Ape Initiative in Des Moines, Iowa, with David Zellner and Nathan Zellner, to screen their new movie for a group of primate film critics. PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at their visit and how the bonobos reacted to the film.

In footage from the visit, several bonobos intently watch the film; a few even reach out to try to touch the characters on screen.

"The bonobos were very curious about Sasquatch Sunset. 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," Dr. Jared Taglialatela, the director of Ape Initiative, and Dr. Sara Skiba, Ape Initiative's director of communication, tell PEOPLE.

Ape Initiative is home to seven bonobos born under human care before arriving at the research center and sanctuary.

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"Ape Initiative is the only bonobo research center on the planet. With a focus on science, education, and outreach, our programs are fostering a deeper connection between people and the natural world while enriching the lives of our bonobo," Dr. Taglialatela and Dr. Skiba say of Ape Initiative's purpose.

"Understanding bonobo behavior and how they interact with one another is critical if we are going to save them. That's why we developed a scientifically grounded conservation education program for students of all ages. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of scientists and educators by promoting scientific literacy and environmental stewardship," they add.

Since bonobos are "incredibly intelligent," Ape Initiative provides its resident bonobos with an array of "stimulating enrichment items that keep their minds and hands engaged." Among these items are movies and TV shows.

"TV shows and movies are another form of enrichment that the bonobos can engage with. The bonobos can choose what to watch using their touchscreen computers. For example, the staff will pull up Netflix on the touchscreen computer, and Teco will swipe through the movies and select what he wants to watch by tapping on the cover," Dr. Taglialatela and Dr. Skiba say of how Ape Initiative's primates interact with media.

<p>courtesy of Bleecker Street</p> The poster for "Sasquatch Sunset"

courtesy of Bleecker Street

The poster for "Sasquatch Sunset"

So, Sasquatch Sunset is far from the first film the seven bonobos have seen. The primates are such seasoned movie watchers that they have found their favorite films.

"The bonobos all have different preferences when it comes to the genre of movies and shows that they like to watch," Dr. Taglialatela and Dr. Skiba say. "Kanzi loves action films like Hook, Catwoman, and Nacho Libre. Nyota is an avid movie watcher and one of the biggest Twilight/Kristen Stewart fans."

They add, "When Twilight is on, Nyota will sit in front of the screen, head bobbing and blowing kisses to Kristen's character, Bella."

Meanwhile, Teco, Ape Initiative's youngest bonobo, prefers Disney classics like Frozen and Moana and Netflix's Is It Cake?

<p>Bleecker Street/YouTube</p> Jesse Eisenberg (left) and Christophe Zajac-Denek in "Sasquatch Sunset"

Bleecker Street/YouTube

Jesse Eisenberg (left) and Christophe Zajac-Denek in "Sasquatch Sunset"

Overall, the primate viewers enjoyed watching Sasquatch Sunset, but Ape Initiative thinks that "Teco, Mali, and Kanzi seemed the most engaged by the film."

"Teco punched the screen when the Alpha Sasquatch appeared. 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," Dr. Taglialatela and Dr. Skiba share.

Seeing the bonobos watch his final work was a full-circle moment for Eisenberg.

"Watching them was pretty interesting after spending time thinking about those movements. What I found so funny, and what reminded me of doing it, was this very relaxed attitude," the actor says in the clip.

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The Sasquatch Sunset team and Ape Initiative hope this video inspires animal lovers to learn more about bonobos and how to protect them. In the wild, bonobos are only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where their populations are declining.

"Bonobos are the least recognized species of great apes - humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, are known across the globe. The same is not true for bonobos. Tell your friends, family members, and coworkers about bonobos to help save this magnificent species," Dr. Taglialatela and Dr. Skiba advise.

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"Another way to help endangered apes is by not sharing content of humans holding or in direct contact with apes or monkeys. Images like this give people the impression that the primates are not endangered and that they make good pets. The illegal pet trade is one of the greatest threats to endangered apes, especially bonobos. Always be mindful of the images and videos that you share," the Ape Initiative leaders share.

Sasquatch Sunset opens wide in theaters on April 19.

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Read the original article on People.