It was a miracle, and it was too good to be true. In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared without a trace from San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half year later, he was found. Four and a half months later, they discovered he was an imposter.
The extraordinary case of Frédéric Bourdin, the twenty-three year old Frenchman who successfully convinced Barclay’s family he was their lost sixteen year old son, caused a media sensation in 1998. How was the deception possible? How could three years, even under the worst conditions, change a blue-eyed American youngster into a brown-eyed young man with a French accent? Yet Bourdin’s deception went unnoticed for an extraordinary four and a half months, and it was not the family but a private investigator who finally uncovered the truth.
In “The Imposter”, director Bart Layton extensively interviews Bourdin, the Barclay family, the FBI and private investigator Charlie Parker. No two testimonies quite concur, and more questions are raised than answers given. It’s an extraordinary and disturbing story, populated by intriguing characters.
Bourdin is, of course, fascinating. His motivations for the impersonation, and his descriptions of how he managed it, are astounding. Equally fascinating are the Barclays, who accepted this cuckoo into their nest. Were they so desperate for their child to be returned to them that they ignored all the signs? Or were they so willing to accept Bourdin into the family to hide an ugly and frightening truth?
As director Layton said in an interview, “As a work of fiction, it would be preposterous.” But “The Imposter” is not fiction. And for fans of true crime and mystery, it is a must-see.
You can watch it now on beamafilm on our premium rental service, or through your participating public library.
If you like this film, check out Errol Morris’ “Tabloid”, about another extraordinary criminal case.