The Imposter

  • Running Length:1hr 39mins
  • Cast:Frederic Bourdin, Carey Gibson, Charlie Parker, Nancy Fisher, Bart Layton
  • Rated:M - Contains offensive language

Session Times

    Another one for the ‘truth-is-stranger-than-fiction’ file, this film tells the story of French con-artist Frederic Bourdin, who managed to convince a Texan family that he was their 16 year-old son and brother who went missing three years earlier.

    Numerous questions are raised by this even-handed doco, the most central is how could this man have convinced the family he was the person he said he was? Nicholas Barclay was a slight, blue-eyed blonde who would have been 16 when he was ‘found’ in Spain. Bourdin is a stocky 23 year-old, dark-haired and brown-eyed. Yet no one in the family questioned that he was their Nicholas – even when he couldn’t speak English without a thick French accent.

    People in the film have their own theories as to why the family embraced this stranger so readily, but the documentary maker doesn’t take any position on this. In fact, that’s the thing I liked the most about it: it doesn’t take any point of view on the case. Both Bourdin and the family are given equal airtime to tell their stories.

    Frustratingly though, this balanced approach leaves the viewer with no answers. Bourdin’s loveless childhood appears to be the motivation behind his actions, but despite in-depth interviews with both Nicholas’ mother and sister, it’s hard to grasp what made them fall for his scam. Were they so desperate for closure they’d overlook the glaringly obvious facts? Or was it something else?

    Interviews and documentary footage are intercut with dramatised re-enactments of the events , to great effect. But at the end of the film there are as many unanswered questions as there were at the start. I can imagine this one being fantastic dinner-party fodder for weeks to come.

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