The Imposter

DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 39min

DIRECTED BY: Bart Layton


Bonjour, partner: actor Adam O'Brian as Bourdin

Director Bart Layton’s fabulous exposé starts out as standard doco issue with the 1994 disappearance from San Antonio, Texas, of 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay. Three years and four months later, his ecstatic family believed he had been found in a children’s home in Spain. Hold the phone! “Nicholas” was actually 23-year-old Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin, a hardened identity thief scrambling for a new life.

 

Combining recollections of family members and law-enforcement personnel with re-created events using actors, Layton tells a tale so tall it beggars belief. “He had changed so much,” Nicholas’s mother, Beverly Dollarhide, recalls. Had he ever: Nicholas was blond and blue-eyed; Bourdin is dark-haired with brown eyes — not to mention that slippery French accent.

 

According to Bourdin-as-Nicholas, his transformation was engineered by the military torturers who oversaw the child sex-slave ring into which he was abducted. Yet even presupposing that people tend to see what they desperately want to see, how could anyone close to Nicholas possibly have been fooled? With more confounding questions than answers, this is one family history that refuses to write itself.