Director Bart Layton's film The Imposter picked up two awards, plus received nominations for Best British Independent Film, Best Director, Best Achievement In Production and Best Technical Achievement.
The Imposter centres on a Texas family whose teenage son who has been missing for three years, turns up, in Spain and can now only speak with a Spanish accent. This true story gives accounts from the family, the authorities and the young Frenchman Frederic Bourdin who was found to be an imposter during investigations, exploring just how and why the family opened him into their family, despite worryingly massive missing pieces in the puzzle.
The following interview took place at the Moet British Independent Film Awards in London on 9th December 2012.
GG: What’s your reaction having won two awards for both Best British Documentary and The Douglas Hickox Award (Best Debut Director)?
Bart: You think if you’re going to write something, you’re never going to win, but if you don’t write something, you might win; so I was quite stunned by the whole thing. The thing that’s really amazing is that was a category of amazing, amazing directors; I’ve seen a handful of those movies and they’re really accomplished. They are fiction films, entirely dramatised, very dialogue driven with actors; so to be included and win, even though ours is a very unusual kind of documentary, amongst all that, is really amazing.
GG: As a documentary, you do some quite unusual things that haven’t really been seen in documentaries before – tell me about how you twisted the genre?
Bart: The whole answer to that is all about that is the starting point being the story. This is a story where there are a number of very conflicting subjective versions of what we’ll call the truth. If you’re a documentary maker, part of your job is to try and get as close to the truth. Yet, one day I’ll do an interview convinced I knew exactly what had happened, the next day I’d sit down with someone with a different side of the story and come away with the diametrically opposite conclusion. That to me felt like a key as to how to structure the film that you as an audience should have a similar kind of twisting journey to the one that I went on making. I guess with the drama elements, it's that thing that if a story teller is telling you a great story, you will have quite a visual experience of it, you will have a movie that’s replayed in your head. Those dramatised elements are the idea that you are inhabiting that persons story, not a reconstruction, not what absolutely must have happened that night, but what that person wants you to believe. That s the best way I can explain it.
GG: The Imposter is based on a true story, how did you find it keeping sympathetic to the sensitive subject matter as well as bringing in your own story-telling elements?
Bart: It’s not based on a true story, it is a true story. All of the people in the film are the real people, so they tell the story in their own words. Part of my story is navigating those various and slightly conflicting versions and making sense of it. All of the people who were in the film, whose story it was, have seen the film and have felt that it was very fair and very honest, even though on one level they can’t all be true, but they all felt that they had their side of the story represented. I guess it leaves you to try and figure out where the truth lies in all of that.
GG: As a documentary maker, who do you look to for inspiration?
Bart: I’m a huge movie fan – I am probably more obsessed by fiction and by drama than documentary. I think if it weren’t for filmmakers like Errol Morris who made The Thin Blue Line, a really game changing film, without him there probably wouldn’t have been films like Touching The Void, without Touching The Void there might not be films like Man On Wire and without Man On Wire, The Imposter might not exist. There is a tradition of some sort there. They are all inspirational. I remember seeing Touching The Void at the movies and thinking this is as gripping as any thriller. So there was certainly something in that that I wanted to continue in The Imposter.
The Imposter trailer: