Three Identical Strangers is an incredible true story, and the winner of Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award.
Directed by Tim Wardle, a former head of documentaries for the BBC, this engrossing documentary poses the question – how much is identity shaped by nurture or nature?
Robert Shafran was 19 years old when he started at a community college in New York. On his first day, he was welcomed by students who greeted him weirdly and enthusiastically.
They were mistaking Robert for student Eddy Gallard who had attended the school the previous year. Like Robert, Eddy was adopted, and had the same birth date: July 12, 1961.
It turned out that Robert and Eddy were identical twins, separated when they were six months old. The two were overjoyed when they were reunited.
The joyous story and photos made headlines, soon seen by David Kellerman, a third look-alike. And then they were three. The publicity brought them national and international fame in the early 1980s.
The three boys had wonderful smiles, curly hair and big personalities. Reunited by luck, it looked as if they had spent their whole lives together – becoming inseparable friends, living and working together, dressing in the same clothes, smoking the same cigarettes, and moving in the same manner. They all married and eventually opened a restaurant called Triplets.
The story peels away in layers and gradually becomes more disturbing.
The young men eventually learn they’d been born to a troubled teenage girl who had put them out for adoption through Louise Wise Services, a Jewish adoption agency, which had sent them to three different homes within 100 miles of each other – one upper class, one middle class and one “blue collar”.
The three sets of adoptive parents had each adopted a girl from the same agency two years earlier, each couple unaware their children were part of a secret, unethical social experiment.
Further, the parents were not told that their adopted sons were triplets. All three boys were monitored for years by Peter Neubauer (now deceased) and researchers from Yale University using them to try to determine how identity is shaped.
Results from the study were sealed and held at Yale with instructions they were not to be released until 2066, but in 2018 after great pressure from some of the outraged people involved, some 10,000 heavily redacted pages have been released.
Now showing at Luna Leederville.
Watch the trailer…