Maybe your humble scribe has seen too many docs that tried to pull the wool over my eyes, films like The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico or Catfish. But recently Sugar Man definitely pulled the hoodie of coolness over mine eyes. So now I’m more determined than ever not to get fooled again.
After all who didn’t get fooled in The Dark Knight Rises when it was reveled at the end that Marion Cotillard was the actual main villain and not Bane (Tom Hardy)? Yet it was while watching The Imposter that I was once again tricked by a movie due to the fact that the story was so unbelievable it couldn’t possibly be true. The Imposter tells the story of a serial impersonator from Europe who convinced a family from San Antonio that he was their runaway son. Furthermore The Imposter uses the actual people involved (as well as a few recreation scenes that use actors to portray those same people).
Frederic Bourdin, the imposter, eventually spent six years in prison (1998 – 2003) and was deported back to Europe but the story of The Imposter pours forth in an investigative manner as we follow Bourdin’s journey from the US embassy in Spain to San Antonio and his five-month stay with his adopted family and his eventual discovery (mainly through a private investigator as well as a psychological examination that took place in Houston).
But here’s the bizarre part of The Imposter: the actual boy who is missing may’ve been killed by members of his family and buried in the backyard. The Imposter has us question the motives of the perpetrator as well as the victims, which is one of the ways it’s such a brilliant film.
There’s actually a fictionalized version of The Imposter called The Chameleon (2010). And so once again the truth is stranger than fiction. On a side note, another fiction film opening soon, Compliance takes actual events that are so out of the ordinary you cannot believe they actually happened (in this case more than once). A phone caller to a fast food restaurant convinces the manager that he’s a police detective and has the manager and other employees strip search a teen female cashier. In reality this phone scam was committed multiple times in North America over the period of a decade.
As for The Imposter, this excellent documentary opens at the Sundance Cinemas Houston this weekend.
— Michael Bergeron