‘The Imposter’ is a thrilling, intense new documentary
Directed by Bart Layton
United Kingdom, 2012
Your mind play tricks on you all the time. You’re presented with a clear-cut fact, something that is immutably true, and you doubt it. You wake up in the middle of the night, but your mind convinces you that you’ve had a full night’s sleep or it’s actually mid-morning and you’re running late. Someone you care about hasn’t answered your call, so your mind tells you something terrible—a car accident, maybe—has happened to them, even if the real answer is they just didn’t pick up their phone. Why does anyone—and we all do it–play these games on their psyches? What compels us to believe a convenient lie as opposed to accepting the cold, harsh truth? Such heady questions are at the center of The Imposter, a high-intensity and thrilling new documentary.
In 1994, 13-year old Nicholas Barclay vanished from his San Antonio home. His mother and sister, among others, were worried sick about the boy and looked for him with no luck; according to them, the police were never too interested in this case. For over three years, there was no sign of Nicholas. But in October of 1997, authorities in Spain found a boy who said he was Nicholas. Though Carey Gibson, Nicholas’ sister, came to pick this boy up and bring him home, his story unraveled in the following months to reveal that, shockingly, he wasn’t a boy at all. He was Frédéric Bourdin, a 23-year old Frenchman who’d impersonated Nicholas for over four months, fooling family, friends, and even an FBI agent. As crazy as this story sounds, it actually happened and ended up being American nighttime talk-show fodder.