Friday, August 31, 2012
"The Imposter": Dateline-style docudrama about a Frenchman who fools the family of a missing teen
Sometimes we have disturbing events in our lives, and they don’t make complete sense. We go back and look through everything in meticulous detail to see what happened.
That sort of problem lends itself especially to crime, and often leads to the kind of investigative reports you see on NBC’s Dateline or ABC’s 20-20. And it can lead to docudrama filmmaking, a combination of dramatization, illustrated narratives and interviews, which can become more nailbiting than conventional mystery drama.
So it is with “The Imposter”, the docudrama from director Bart Layton, Film4, and distributor Indomina (in the UK, it comes from Picturehouse, the New Line brand than is no longer used in the US for reasons unknown). According to YouTube, IFC is also a distributor.
On 1994, a 13-year-old boy disappeared in San Antonio Texas. Three years later, in 1997, the family got a phone call from Spain about a teenager claiming to be that boy. This would turn out to be master imposter Frederic Bourdin, an orphan (almost out of Victor Hugo) who would pose as missing kids in order to have and identity, be somebody, and be cared for. He would be the only person able to fool immigration and enter the US under a fake identity. He even had himself tattooed to resembled the boy, and even fooled the parents that he was the boy. There are visual clues in the film that would have given away his real age (23) as older (like chest hair), and behavioral clues, that he knew nothing about San Antonio.
Bourdin described horrifying allegations of abuse from members of European and maybe US militaries. Presumably he made these charges up. But they could have been a serious distraction to trying to repeal the ban against gays in the military in the US had they been credible and more public.
One of the main characters in the film is a facilitator at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria VA (not Arlington, as said in the film). Another character is an elderly San Antonio private investigator. They both describe increasing suspicion against the San Antonio family.
The original teen is still missing.
One could compare Bourdin to Farnk Abagnale (Leonardo Di Caprio) in Steven Spielberg's 2002 film (Dreamworks), "Catch Me If You Can", which was "comedy".
I saw the film late Thursday night before a fair crowd at the Landmark E Street in Washington DC. Landmark still shows digital projection without previews and integration into the rest of the theater’s system.
Other theaters seem to be converting to all digital. The film is presented in full 2.35:1 aspect.
The official site is here.
According to the credits, the San Antonio portions of the film were actually shot in Phoenix. There seem to be more movies these days with British and European sponsors (Film4 and Studio Canal) set in the US.