Profile: Bart Layton - director of The Imposter
Compelling documentary on French con-artist who impersonated missing boy
Along with producer Dimitri Doganis, Layton runs the London production company RAW, which has made numerous documentary series for UK and US television. Their first feature project, The Imposter, is based on the true story of a French drifter who impersonated a missing Texan child and succeeded in tricking the child’s family as well as the FBI. It had its world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and its UK premiere this summer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
On discovering Frédéric Bourdin, the subject of The Imposter
‘I came across an article about him in an old Spanish magazine: this serial imposter who’d lived this extraordinary life, institutionalised and in care all over Europe, acting the role of a damaged child. I was immediately fascinated… and then I researched further and found out about this episode. What kind of a person would perpetrate a crime like that, and what kind of family could fall victim to it?’
On what motivates Bourdin
‘I think he’s kind of confused attention and affection. What began as – if he’s to be believed – a search for some kind of acceptance has brought him all this media attention, which has a way of validating him. The film is sort of self-reflexive in that way.’
On using reconstructions
‘Reconstruction isn’t the right word – that conjures up Crimewatch! And the idea that you can reconstruct a definitive version of events. What I wanted to do was not reconstruct what must have happened, but to visualise what this person is telling you happened.’
On the film’s twists and ambiguities
‘I always knew that I wanted to try and create a structure where the audience would go on this quite bewildering journey, similar to the one I went on doing the interviews. You go from one conclusion to the opposite conclusion. Dimitri and I spend a lot of time listening to people arguing as they leave screenings, and there are completely polarised responses, which is the perfect audience reaction.’
The Imposter is on selected release from Fri 24 Aug.