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A feelgood news story from Reagan’s America becomes something much darker and more complex in this documentary from British film-maker Tim Wardle, who has built on the work of New Yorker investigative journalist Laurence Wright.
In 1980, three triplets, given up individually for adoption to different families 18 years before, were accidentally and ecstatically reunited by an extraordinary quirk of fate. It is as gripping as a first-contact sci-fi. They had had no idea of each other’s existence, and neither had their adoptive families.
David Kellman, Eddy Galland and Bobby Shafran became huge media stars: good-looking, smart, personable Jewish American boys who saw no reason not to enjoy the spotlight. They were on every TV show and newsstand and, for a Warholian 15 minutes, became America’s darlings. But then their adoptive parents angrily asked why they had been split up like this, robbed of much of their own existence.
After a tense confrontation with the evasive officials of the adoption agency, one adoptive parent returned to the conference room to find these people drinking champagne, like the sinister people in an Ira Levin story. The awful truth is that the boys were separated deliberately, as were many other sets of adoptive twins (though no other adoptive triplets that we know about) at the behest of distinguished psychologist Peter B Neubauer, who had instituted a secret research project to get to the bottom of the nature-versus-nurture debate.
His findings were never published and the identities of the “private Washington charities” who bankrolled this creepy scheme remain a mystery. Why did Neubauer suppress his own work? Was it because, as a Swiss-born refugee from the Nazis himself, he became increasingly worried about how experimentation on Jewish triplets was going to look? Or was it that he worried that the results were slanted and valueless?
Who knows? But Wardle tells a compelling story of the three happy boys who became three unhappy men, their faces shining with a kind of ecstasy in their youth, then muted with sadness and bewilderment in middle age.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Three Identical Strangers review – shocking story of triplets separated at birth | Documentary films