THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS is a documentary about triplets separated at birth. It’s dramatic and delightful, until it becomes dark and disturbing... Barb Bretz has this week's Friday Film Review.
Leslie Thatcher and I interviewed director Tim Wardle on KPCW’s Sundance Reel. I’d screened the doc several days prior in a packed house of 500. We were unprepared for the depth of the story, which by the end, had us in tears…the sniffing...sobbing kind.
Interviewing the director was tricky, neither of us wanted to give away too much of the story, then or now. So, here is just the “set up."
In 1980, 19 year old Bobby Shafran with his wide eyes, infectious smile and mop of soft brown curls, drives to a small, upstate NY college. Walking across campus for the very first time, he’s greeted enthusiastically; guys slap him on the back. Girls run up with hugs. And everyone calls him “Eddy”. Bobby assures them he is not Eddy. Eventually, a guy asks Bobby his date of birth and if he was adopted. He then says, I’m pretty sure you have a twin.
Together, they call Eddy Galland, who’d been a student the previous year and make a midnight drive to his house. Face to face, Bobby and Eddy are a perfect match. The local newspaper runs an article and picture of the reunited identical twins. That is the day David Kellman is swamped with calls from his…. friends saying, "I think you’re a triplet.”
Identical triplets separated at birth, together again. The boys had much in common. They’d all been adopted out of the same agency. All to Jewish families in the same area of New York state. All had an older adopted sister. All loved Italian food and smoked the same brand of cigarettes.
Instant media darlings, they made the talk show circuit, partied at New York City nightclubs...even did a cameo in a Madonna film…. Desperately Seeking Susan.
If you think I’ve ruined the story for you, guess again. That was the dramatic, delightful beginning. What follows is dark and deeply disturbing. Think “Orwell’s 1984." Think “Dr. Josef Mengele and his twin experiments in WWII concentration camps."
The doc features archival media footage and family photos, interviews with the boys, their adoptive parents, the reporter who broke the story and an author, who in doing research on twins for a novel, uncovers facts that launch this tale into the twilight zone.
As a result of this story, other sets of multiples have discovered each other and there are many others with no idea they have an identical sibling somewhere out there.
See this doc. Take a tissue. It’s a story you’ll never forget.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS runs 1 hr and 36 captivating minutes and is rated PG13.