“THE IMPOSTER” | director, Bart Layton
[PREMIERE SCREENING: Monday, January 23, 5:30 pm –Prospector Square Theatre, Park City]
As a documentary-maker you could wait a lifetime to happen upon a story as extraordinary as this one. From the moment I heard about it it sounded like something that could hardly have taken place in the real world – a Frenchman successfully steals the identity of a missing Texan boy and begins a new life within the boy’s family posing as their child? If it were a work of fiction it would seem far-fetched. And from this sparked the need to find out more – about the man capable of perpetrating such a crime and the family capable of becoming victims to it.
When I met with the imposter, he was immediately fascinating. At once charming and off-putting, childlike and jaded, someone who seemed to have lived his life in a fantasy that suited him better than the life he was born into – and it was all too easy to get sucked in, wanting to believe him despite knowing he was a convicted and pathological liar, wanting to hear him tell his story in his own words. But having met him – heard his thick accent, seen his olive skin, dark hair and dark brown eyes, it seemed impossible that at the age of 23 he could have convinced authorities that he was an American 16-year-old and much less, convinced a family that he was their blonde-haired, blue-eyed all-American boy.
I wondered if perhaps the Imposter was not the story, but was rather a way in to a more interesting story about deception and self-deception and the ability people have to construct their own truths. Other fascinating characters emerged – many of whom seemed better suited to a Coen Brothers film than to the real world. It was hard to hear the interviewees describe these events without feeling like they were recounting the plot to a movie and that seemed to unlock something of how we might go about telling this story. There would be no single truth, no way of “getting it right”, so my thought was to make a virtue of these subjective accounts, and to visualize them in a style befitting the story itself – to take the audience on a journey as twisted and gripping and as similar to the one we experienced in making the documentary as possible. The goal was to attempt to recreate the movie that plays in your head when someone tells you an extraordinary story. It could only ever be a film.