Today: April 16, 2024
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The Imposter

By – Christa Ktorides. They say that life is stranger than fiction.

By – Christa
Ktorides

They say that life is stranger than fiction. In the case of The Imposter they are
spot on.

In 1994, 13-year-old Texan Nicholas
Barclay
disappeared without a trace from his family home. Three years later
his family received a phone call from the authorities in Spain informing them
that Nicholas had been found. In actual fact “Nicholas” was 23-year-old
Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin, a serial conman who convinced not only the
authorities but Nicholas’ own family into believing he was the missing
16-year-old American.

The Imposter might possibly
be the most daring and challenging of documentaries seen this year. Director Bart
Layton
doesn’t judge his subjects, he just allows them to speak their
“truths” as this mysterious tale unwinds. Blending real-life talking heads with
all the surviving main players and re-enactments with actors (Adam O’Brian
is uncannily like Bourdin) he infuses this bizarre, unlikely tale with flashes
of humour and by filming Bourdin in close-up with him addressing the audience
directly, makes us all feel complicit in his lie. It’s an uncomfortable feeling
when you find yourself almost rooting for an extreme sociopath.

Bourdin is a fascinating
subject. Put aside his clearly deranged and cruel escapade and what you have is
an extremely adept liar and actor. How did a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian
origin who has never been to the United States and possesses a French accent,
con the Spanish authorities, the FBI and the family of the missing boy that he
was who he claimed to be? His ability to think on his feet and concoct a tale
of child sex rings run by shady members of the US military makes him an
unreliable witness to the events that followed. After the Barclay family have
accepted him into their home and the lies begin to unravel thanks to the
persistence of private investigator Charlie Parker (someone needs to
give him his own film, so brilliantly dogged in his pursuit of the truth is
he), Bourdin begins to backtrack and heaps accusations upon the Barclay family
regarding Nicholas’ disappearance.

Add the most inept FBI
agent on the face of the planet, the blank, unemotional mother of Nicholas
Barclay and the unaccountable fact that the family accepted someone who bore
zero resemblance to their loved one (the idea that blonde, blue-eyed Nicholas
could become the olive skinned, dark eyed and obviously older Bourdin is
absurd) and the mystery deepens further.

While the heart of the
story is how someone could con an entire nation into believing he was someone
he was not, what is undeniable and tragic is that Nicholas Barclay is still
missing, his loved ones still in limbo and the only person laughing at the end
of the day is Bourdin.

An unbelievable tale that
will leave the audience aghast at people’s gullibility and their need to accept
the most improbable lie as truth, The Imposter is a terrifying and electrifying
study of the most extreme of charlatans.

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