Bart Layton, UK, 2012, 99 min.
While watching a documentary, or any film about a “true” story, you need to determine the bias of the film’s creators before you come up with your opinion on the topic. All documentaries are biased in some way. Mostly to prove a point.
The Imposter, by Bart Layton, tells the true story of child who went missing in Texas, and 3 years later was found in Spain and returned to his family. But the child is not who everyone thinks he is. Instead of a 15 year old American, he is a 23 year old French con-artist.
It’s a wild story, and that short description doesn’t tell the whole tale. There is more, and it’s keeps getting more and more interesting. And I think that’s where the bias is.
The film is biased to tell a great story. The film-makers have found one, for sure, but they make sure to wring every inch of story out of it. They make sure the twists register as “twists”, and that some theories are portrayed as more than just theories. Most of the story is told by a pathological liar, and the film makes no attempt to deal with that.
From a film-making stand point I don’t know if there is anything wrong with it. The film is well-made and entertaining. It runs a bit long, and borrows heavily from Errol Morris’s style, but those aren’t major criticisms.
It may give the wrong impression on some aspects of the events in question, I don’t know. But the story intrigues, provokes discussion, and is a crazy tale to experience. Do documentaries have an obligation not to be biased? Well, if that’s the case, you better stop watching documentaries. They all are.