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16th Dec 2023

People are just discovering the most jaw-dropping documentary of the 21st century


It needs to be seen to be believed

As Christmas approaches, everyone’s starting to get a big desperate for something to settle down and watch of an evening.

And that’s leading people to (re)discover an absolute classic of a true crime documentary that’s absolutely blowing people’s minds.

Released in July 2012, The Imposter details the astonishing story of Nicholas Patrick Barclay, a 13-year-old boy who disappeared suddenly in Texas in 1994. Several years later, Barclay’s family receive word that Nicholas has been found safe and well in Spain. He is brought home, and despite looking and sounding completely different, the Barclay family welcomes him back with open arms.

However, it is soon revealed that serial con artist Frédéric Bourdin is merely pretending to be Nicholas, and he has form for this sort of deception. And the twists don’t stop there.

The story heads off in directions that would make a fictional psychological thriller seem unbelievable, which only makes the events of this documentary all the more jaw-dropping.

Honestly, this thing is wild. Assessing the film upon its 10-year anniversary, JOE’s own Rory Cashin remarked that director Bart Layton “uses some incredibly slick narrative devices to blur the lines between regular documentaries and something that feels much closer to narrative fiction, making you constantly feel like you’re watching a twisty Hollywood thriller, instead of something that actually happened“.

“Layton would have a hand in the return to the originally great ratio of reality-vs-fiction, when he executive-produced this year’s The Tinder Swindler, which remains the best original content that Netflix has put out in some time,” Cashin continued.

“There were, of course, documentaries that felt like they were telling blockbuster, populist stories – Man on Wire and Catfish immediately come to mind – but The Imposter feels like the exact point when documentaries started thrilling audiences just as well, if not better, than Hollywood could.”

Spot-on! The Imposter will often have you peering through your fingers at just how outlandish things get – and, surprisingly, there is some strange humour baked into the mix – but you really do need to see this one to believe it. And even then, you may not believe your eyes.

Users on social media are just discovering the hidden gem, with one user saying ‘there’s no way this sh*t was real…’. Others have credited the doc with being the first in the twisty true crime genre which has exploded in recent years, including Making A Murderer and The Jinx. 

The Imposter is available to stream on Amazon.

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