In 2008, The New Yorker ran a piece by David Grann titled “The Chameleon,” the incredible story about Frédéric Bourdin, a strange Frenchman wanted by Interpol for impersonating missing children. Mr. Bourdin’s motivation was not that of a normal con man: he wasn’t after money, or inheritance. He wanted to be in foster homes, a place where he felt safe to reinvent his own “loveless” childhood.
In 1997, at the age of 23, Mr. Bourdin—brown-eyed, dark-haired (and balding)—was placed in foster care in Spain, impersonating a 16-year-old trauma victim. Due to a series of almost unbelievable events, he ended up identified as Nicholas Barclay, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Texan who had disappeared at the age of the 13.
After winning several major awards at Sundance and the like, director Bart Layton’s take on the Bourdin/Barclay case, The Imposter is hitting theaters with a limited release. The Imposter is a “documentary” in the way Catfish or Errol Morris’ A Thin Blue Line were “documentaries,” with candid interviews spliced with reenactments, found footage, fake interviews and actors representing the characters who surrounded the Barclay case. And there is no way to tell who is real, and who is an actor, or whether the home movies were created expressly for The Imposter, or actually came with permission from the Barclay family. Because this story wasn’t confusing enough to begin with. Read More