In 1994, a thirteen year old boy disappeared from San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later, he is found alive and well thousands of miles away in Europe. He tells a story of kidnap and torture when he returns. While his family is excited to bring him home, all is not as it seem.Written by
At the beginning of the film, Frédéric Bourdin's hair line is very defined and has dark hair. But by the end of the film he has a noticeable receding hairline. However, the film portrays his talking scenes as one long interview as his shirt never changes. See more »
Frédéric Bourdin - Imposter:
Before I was born, I definitely had the wrong identity. I already didn't know - I was already prepared not to know who I really was. A new identity with a real passport, an American passport... I could go to the U.S., go to school there, live with that family, and just being someone and don't have never again to worry about being identified. I saw the opportunity.
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You Rascal You
Performed by Hanni El Khatib See more »
True or False?
If every detail of this didn't actually happen, it would be a fictional best-seller. Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed Texan boy went missing in 1994. Three years later, on a rainy night in Spain, a person made a call to the police, claiming to be that boy. That person was in fact mentally afflicted con artist Frederic Bourdin, an Algerian orphan, who had a history of impersonating missing and fictional children.
What an intriguing story, I hear you say. There's no question that it is. It might have been even more intriguing if the US media hadn't presaged this documentary, and therefore limited its potential impact, by covering the story in minute detail at the time of its unearthing, only 15 years ago.
Filmmaker Bart Layton chooses the annoying reconstruction technique, more at home in TV than in cinema; and yet he had the material for a heart-pounding thriller. Frederic Bourdin is allowed too much screen time, which he uses to gloat about how he ingeniously fooled the authorities and Nicholas's family into believing the implausible reason for his radical physical transformation, memory loss and new French accent. This over-familiarity with the villain and his modus operandi helps sanitise him and makes him appear less dangerous.
'The Imposter' was not made purely for entertainment purposes. The documentary asks whether Bourdin's actions were acceptable; after all, he was an orphan whom the authorities didn't care much for. This was his way to be 'reborn' and to be loved by a family who Bourdin still maintains never truly believed he was their son, but nonetheless accepted him because he was willing to be accepted.
The twist in the tale came when Bourdin made a full confession to dogged Private Investigator, Charlie Parker (who looks so much like a film PI). Bourdin claimed that the family murdered Nicholas, and embraced him as a way of closing the case. I admit that a cold chill ran down my spine every time Nicholas's mother is interviewed. The black t-shirt she wears with a blank expression, denying her guilt with verbose but carefully delivered sentences, does cause the question to hang.
With all their power and their reputation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation fell for a trickster. It beggars belief. FBI agent Nancy Fisher talks at some length to defend her actions. Despite reservations about his true identity, Frederic's correct identification of some family photos (coincidentally showed to him by Nicholas's sister a few days prior) was apparently enough for them to send him to the States. And yet we're reminded of how rare it is for missing people to reappear (they're usually assumed dead).
The family may have had their own reasons to be taken in by Bourdin, but the authorities - they couldn't have truly believed Bourdin was Nicholas, could they? Is it not just conceivable that this 'reunion' was allowed to happen because it allowed America to once again be the world's greatest country? Who knows? What we do know is that Nicholas Barclay is still missing, and Bourdin now lives happily in France with a wife and three kids.
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