95 minutes, U.K., 2012, Colour, D-Cinema

We’re living in a golden age for documentary film, yet the term somehow feels too limiting to describe this dazzling piece of storytelling, which chronicles bizarre real-life events to richly dramatic, fiercely thought-provoking effect.

In 1994, the Barclay family of San Antonio, Texas were left distraught by the disappearance of 13-year-old Nicholas, but a phone call three years later would change their lives. Police in Spain had picked up a teenager answering to his name and description, found cowering in a telephone booth.

As the title suggests however, the plot was about to thicken… enter Frédéric Bourdin, a 20-something Frenchman with a troubled history and a record of manipulative behaviour. Director Bart Layton’s ability to visualise the interlocking, often contradictory testimonies offered by both parties creates a vivid filmic experience drawing on the language of film noir, such evident artifice brilliantly appropriate given the central theme of reality as a construct we can choose to believe or disbelieve. Mesmerising stuff. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

The Imposter will open this year’s IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin’s Documentary Film Festival (August 16th – 19th).

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