The Imposter

August 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Adam O’Brian, Frédéric Bourdin, Carey Gibson
Directed by: Bart Layton (TV’s “Locked Up Abroad”)

Stare deep into the eyes of French-Algerian criminal Frédéric Bourdin and it is evident he has no conscience. His matter-of-fact answers and weasel-like expressions during interviews with director Bart Layton for the documentary “The Imposter” are unsettling to say the least. Bourdin didn’t murder or maim anyone. He isn’t a child molester or serial rapist. It would be easy to label him a madman, but that would only suggest he didn’t know the pain he was causing. The chilling composure he maintains while talking about the way he misled a San Antonio family into believing he was their missing teenage son is enough to make anyone question what else human beings are capable of doing. In his first feature documentary, Layton is able to capture exactly who Bourdin is through a unique blend of real-life footage, seemingly candid interviews, and stylish reenactments. It’s all fashioned together into one gut-wrenching, suspenseful, and often bizarre crime docudrama that is the creepiest true story to hit the big screen since 2010’s “Catfish.”

The cinematic approach Latyon takes to fill in the holes and puzzle the full narrative might not sit well with documentary purists, but his direction and the in-depth examination of Bourdin’s stated intentions create a nightmarish scenario that would tear any family to its core. In many ways, Bourdin is like the nonfiction version of the character Keyser Söze from “The Usual Suspects,” a film that carries the tagline, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.” Bourdin’s greatest trick has been to convince the world he does exist — in many forms.

“For as long as I remember, I wanted to be someone else — someone who was acceptable,” Bourdin admits at the start of the film. It’s safe to say that, in “The Imposter,” he is only able to make the first half of that wish come true.

Bart Layton – The Imposter

August 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

Getting to the truth wasn’t going to come easy for director Bart Layton. He knew this even before he turned on the video camera and gave serial imposter Frédéric Bourdin a platform to do what he does best. “He is a master manipulator,” Layton told me during an interview to discuss his documentary “The Imposter.” “I was aware I was being manipulated. I mean, I introduced myself to this guy and the first thing he told me was that he is a liar. Yet, I willingly went on this journey with him.”

Layton had already seen Bourdin’s rap sheet. He had read the list of fake aliases he had used over the last 20 years to deceive people into believing he was someone else. He knew sitting face to face with the man known as “The Chameleon” would make him a vulnerable target for more deception. Still, one particular story involving Bourdin was much too fascinating for Layton not to pursue as a filmmaker.

“I got to a point in his story that just became so unusual,” Layton said. “If it was the plot to a movie it would’ve seemed farfetched. I was immediately drawn to this very human story — a story you can’t really relate to on any level.”

In “The Imposter,” Layton revisits Bourdin’s 1997 transformation into Nicholas Barclay, a 16-year-old kid from San Antonio who went missing three years prior only to resurface in Spain as Bourdin. Bourdin was able to convince Nicholas’s family he was their lost son and was welcomed with open arms despite some overlooked evidence suggesting he was not, in fact, the young boy.

“The idea that a family could mistake someone like this for their child was incredibly compelling,” Layton said. “It simply wasn’t a story about this imposter. It was a story about grief and the desperate need to believe.”

Layton’s first impression of Bourdin was multilayered. He hoped he could reflect those feelings in the film through the one-on-one interviews he conducted. “There were times when I felt quite sympathetic towards him and times when I felt completely repulsed by him,” Layton said. “I wanted the viewer to experience that — being on the receiving end of what he is like.”

In the end, Layton learned Bourdin is a man who simply can’t differentiate between fact and fiction. “I’m not sure he believes the lies he creates,” Layton said. “But I definitely think he wants to keep rewriting his story.”