Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hot Docs Mini Review: The Imposter


The Imposter tells a story so outlandish that you would not believe it had it been a fictional film. The fact that the events actually occurred, makes the film even more intriguing. The Imposter is the story of Frederic Bourdin, a 23 year-old Algerian man who successfully assumed the identity of a teenage boy, Nicholas Barclay, from San Antonio who went missing four years earlier. The most shocking thing about this story is that Bourdin was not only able to fool authorities in both Spain and the United States, but that he was able to trick Barclay’s family as well.

The fact that Bourdin looked nothing like Barclay, with the exception of one or two features, makes the whole thing even more baffling. The Imposter is a film that is full of twist and turns. Director Bart Layton, manages to weave together a narrative that not only ponders what happen to Nicholas Barclay? But also why would the Barclay family welcome this obvious, to most people, imposter into their home. Even Bourdin himself admits that he believed that alternative motives were in play on the family’s part. Though how can the words of Bourdin, a serial imposter, be trusted at all?

Deciphering who is telling the truth is the hardest part of this complex tale. Even the colourful private investigator, Charlie Parker, who almost single-handedly steals the film, seems stumped as to what happened to Barclay. Layton leaves it up to the audience to come up with their own hypothesis as to what happen to Barclay and whose story to believe. The film features heavy use of dramatized re-enactments to tell the various stories of the many individuals involved. This will surely bring comparisons to Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, but The Imposter’s use of dramatization works on a completely different level than Morris’ famed film. While the dramatized re-enactments may be seen as a controversial move by some, Layton never exploits the device. In fact it allows the film to feel more fully realized than many fictional films today. Layton crafts a film that manages to be full of mystery, and often quite humorous, despite it incredibly sad subject matter. The Imposter is one of the best films this year. This is not a film to be missed.

Screening: Saturday April 28th 1:15 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Monday April 30th Isabel Bader Theatre.

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