Inspiration and Deception: The Imposter

At the ongoing Silver Docs film festival in Silver Spring, MD, the Imposter is getting lots of attention. It's the story of con man extraordinaire Frenchman Frederic Bourdin who tries to convince a grieving Texas family he is their missing teenage son.

It will get some theatrical release later this year, at the very least to get a shot at an Academy nomination.

The movie is brilliantly shot and slickly edited, with many re-enactments which are sometimes reminiscent of Errol Morris work, the reference of film noir documentary with heavy emphasis on interviews and underlying music, such as his masterpiece The Thin Blue Line.

The director here is Bart Layton of Locked Up Abroad tv series fame, which used similar techniques.

But here the main character Bourdin is widely known, and has already been written about extensively, by himself and others. There has even been a French-American fictional movie about him.

If you already know the story, it seems you are also being conned somewhat as the actor who re-enacts Bourdin looks much more like the missing boy than Bourdin did at that time, where it would be impossible for any right thinking person to ever believe he was indeed the teenager returned.

The producer Dimitri Doganis of Gold Rush Alaska tv fame was at Silver Docs. During a question and answer session, he said he was happy that the fictional movie was "shit, and that ours is much better." He also said Bourdin was paid some money to be interviewed, but he didn't give a sum, he just said, "not enough to live off of for any amount of time."

The whole experience left me feeling a little empty, as I had just watched a movie where visibly so many people were lying, all of them either deeply wounded or darkly driven, becoming monsters of their own doing.

Reenactments of the house where the deception took place were made to look like in the middle of a desolate dust bowl whereas it actually was in a nice looking neighborhood.

And there was this missing kid who only appeared on old grainy home movies, replaced by a con man and a silent actor playing out reenactments of the past who looks nothing like Bourdin either, and a film trying to do a sleigh of hand with a story that is already known.

It almost made me wonder if the filmmakers had wanted to intentionally appear monstrous themselves, as the con man and the delusional family did, in what would be an interesting twist, since the movie is nothing short of fascinating, even if it eats away at us and our own relations to what we may be running from or hiding away.

A very interesting and much more biting review on the IMDB site:

Pointless Exploitation of a Missing Child 30 May 2012 | by LDLucas (Seattle) If you plan to see this documentary, you likely already know the full story. I hope that the director at least set out to shed light on this case and answer questions as to how it could happen. Sadly, the movie falls short in these two key areas. Instead we are treated to a film where the director mocks the victim's families, promotes the perpetrator and ultimately trivializes the disappearance of a 13 year old boy. Since the director has nothing to add, all we are left with are tasteless attempts at humor and an ill-fitting Wes Anderson soundtrack. I understand the need to recoup costs when making a documentary, but sometimes you just hit a dead end and it should be treated as such.

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