Saturday, August 18, 2012

STF Festival Critic Philip Bagnall on The Imposter

'Fascinating' - IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic, Philip Bagnall reviews the Gala Festival Opening sold-out screening of The Imposter.

‘Stranger Than Fiction’ is the official title of the IFI’s documentary festival, so it was appropriate that the 2012 festival began with The Imposter, a film whose subject matter could only be described with those three words.

Nicholas Barclay disappeared from his home in Texas in 1994 in mysterious circumstances. He resurfaced in Spain 40 months later in equally mysterious circumstances. Had this been a wonderful reunion for Nicholas and his family, director Bart Layton wouldn’t have a great tale to tell. However, once he arrives back in the US, some people start to look deeper into the tale of abduction and abuse ‘Nicholas’ weaves, and conclude that he isn’t who he says he is. His family are so willing to accept him that they gloss over obvious clues that all is not what it appears with ‘Nicholas.

It’s a fascinating hook, and from the start we know that ‘Nicholas’ isn’t who he says he is. The ballooning and eventual unravelling of the elaborate lie crafted by over-confident French conman Frederic Bourdin is oddly gripping as Bourdin himself, Nicholas’ family and law enforcement agents set the scene for his odd tale. However, the biggest twists are saved for last, and Layton skillfully squeezes every inch of tension out the story. Raising as many questions as answers, The Imposter is a creepy monument to the power of desperation and self-delusion.

Philip Bagnall (@CynicalFilm
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic

The Imposter opens for an extended run from August 24th at the IFI. 

IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival runs from 16th - 19th August  - for more information & tickets visit

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