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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Imposter': A Captivating, Highly Cinematic True-Crime Documentary

Movie poster for the documentary The Imposter from filmmaker Bart Layton

‘The Imposter’ (2012) is an enthralling British-American documentary about French con artist Frédéric Bourdin, who in 1994 successfully impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a missing 13 year-old boy from Texas.

Three years after the troubled young Barclay disappeared in the south Texas city of San Antonio, his parents received word from abroad that their son had been located in Spain. Claiming to have escaped from a child sex trafficking ring, Bourdin was able to convince Spanish authorities to put him into direct contact with Barclay’s family thousands of miles away. Soon thereafter Bourdin was delivered to San Antonio, explaining his physical changes (hair and eye color) as the product of an elaborate ploy by his kidnappers to hide his true identity. Utterly, unquestionably convinced by his story, Barclay’s family fully embraced the crafty Frenchman just as word of Nicholas’ near-miraculous homecoming began to make headlines across the country.

Directed by British filmmaker Bart Layton ("American Animals"), “The Imposter” is a stunning and fascinating depiction of profound deceit and the psychological phenomenon of group suggestibility. Layton delivers Bourdin’s exploits through an captivating fusion of first-hand interviews, archival footage and fully cinematic reenactment—crafting an altogether unique form of true-crime storytelling in the process. It’s high touch, impossible-to-believe-but-true cinema not to be missed by any stretch.


View the trailer:


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