Three Identical Strangers

Wow! I can’t stop thinking about this movie. A couple people summarized it and the idea of a documentary about three men who were adopted discovering that they’re triplets, separated shortly after birth did intrigue me.

Born in 1961 three baby boys were adopted each by a family from a different socio-economic class though the Louise Wise Agency. When one begins community college, he’s weirded out by all the people greeting him and calling him Eddie. Every where he goes people are happy to see “Eddy” even though this young man’s name was Bobby. A friend of Eddy’s figures out that the two are twins.

Soon Eddy meets Bobby and they’re fast friends/reunited brothers. The story goes viral in the papers. Then things get even more unlikely. David Kellman opens the paper and sees two boys who look like him. He quickly learns that he’s a triplet. The three become a sensation and are on The Today Show, Donahue and the entire talk show circuit of the 1980s. They learn they’ve got all the same mannerisms and tastes.

They’re overjoyed and become inseparable pals. In time they move in to a New York apartment and start a restaurant called Triplets.

But the parents, while open to loving all these boys, are angry. How could this adoption agency not tell them their son had siblings? Their attempts at getting answers and justice are thwarted. A meeting with the agency leaders amounts to nothing. The law firms they approached for help turn them away because their employees may want to adopt through Louise Wise, which struck me as odd given how unethical this revelation is. Wouldn’t it be better for the truth to come out, this agency close and another that is more open and truthful take its place?

A journalist investigating research on twins learns about a study by Peter Neubrauer on nature vs. nurture. In this study done with twins and triplets at the Louise Wise Agency. Thus the triplets and other multiple birth adoptees were guinea pigs for a psychological study neither they nor their parents agreed to. It’s frightful.

The movie goes on to show the effects of this study on the lives of this innocent trio. It’s a film you won’t forget. The dramatized scenes of the past are done with authenticity and the interviews of the boys and those close to the story are sincere, funny and poignant. The film is well made and original. It’s full of twists and revelations that will hit you hard as you contemplate the impact of scientists playing with people as if they were toys. It’s a must-see film. You should be able to stream it or get the DVD at your library.

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Waltz with Bashir

My final film from the library’s Fall Film Challenge was the animated Waltz with Bashir. My first animated documentary, Waltz with Bashir (the president of Lebanon was Bashir Gemayel) shows Ari Folman seeking to remember his experience in the Lebanon War of 1982 . Twenty years after the war, a friend confides in Folman that he’s had recurring nightmares about this war. Folman mentions that he has no memories of his experience in this war. Consequently, he goes on a quest through the fog of the past to reclaim his memories of a massacre. He visits old friends, some who fought and others who’re psychologists to find the truth.

The style of the animation was dark and bold. I found the animation enhanced the documentary and succeeded in producing a jarring look at war. I had no knowledge of this war and while I learned a lot, I realize I probably should find out more so that I don’t have just one point of view. What is particularly interesting was how Folman and others’ not only dealt with the impact of their war experience, but were haunted with how the massacre compared in their minds, their parents’ experience in the concentration camps of WWII.

The ending is haunting not only because of its portrayal of the aftermath of a massacre and its shift from animation to news footage. Waltz with Bashir is not for kids, not even teens, I’d say not just because there’s violence and some explicit sex scenes, but also because the analysis of the past features complex ideas that the few young people can understand.

If you know more about this conflict, please share below in the comment box. I’m eager to expand my knowledge.

*In Hebrew with English subtitles.

Kedi

Even if you’re not a big cat person, I think you’ll find Kedi a fascinating film. A documentary set in Istanbul, where cats run free and the bipedal residents care and feed these nomads, Kedi looks at the relationship between the cats and people of the city.

I’ve never been to Istanbul and prefer dogs to cats, but I still enjoyed the mysterious, aloof felines and the people who respected them. The film consists of people’s views of the cats and their beliefs about the cats’ personalities and benefits. Many people offer very candid narratives, such as one man’s story of how he was down and out after suffering tragedy and how feeding the cats contributed to his turning his life around and becoming gainfully employed and starting a family.

The cats are beautifully photographed in all their regal grace as they move about the city, vying for dominance amongst themselves and adoration from the people. It’s an unusual film that I found curiously uplifting.

Babushkas of Chernobyl

What a terrific film! I have to thank Sharon for recommending it to me. I learned of Babushkas of Chernobyl from the library’s Fall Film Challenge. Here’s what she wrote on the DVD’s Fall Film Challenge slip of paper:

A unique story to be sure. Quoting the co-director Holly Morris, “The dead zone, it turns out, is full of life.” That is a great hook and so true. After the Chernobyl disaster, the Babushkas refused to stay away from their homes. Decades later, they continue to live on their own terms. These women are rock-solid awesome.

Like The Wolfpack, you can put this in the “who knew” category i.e. stranger than fiction. These women find a way.

Yes, this is the story of three grandmas, or Babushkas, who retuned to their homes within the Dead Zone by Chernobyl. They farm here, forage and fish. So daily they eat what’s high in radiation. Yet, and the doctors confirm this, they outlive many of their former neighbors who evacuated. Go figure.

We learn about these tough women and their thinking about living in a ghost town. We also see the teenage boys who’ve taken to sneaking through the barbed wire. These teens play a computer game called S.T.A.L.K.E.R. which is set in the site of the nuclear disaster. They’re drawn to this eerie ghost town, where some of their relatives lived and worked. They see it as romantic.

The Babushkas are sure to warm your heart. Talk about resilient and dedicated.

The Wolfpack

Thanks to Sharon for bringing this unique documentary to my attention. Directed by Crystal Moselle, The Wolfpack (2015)shows a family consisting of six brothers, their parents and their sister who live in New York. The parents met when the mother went backpacking in South America. She shared his dislike for materialism and were married.

The sad and curious thing about this family is that the father became a control freak and would lock the wife and children in the apartment. He believed it was for security, but actually I saw it as a form of control. They could only go outside when the father permitted it and he apparently went with them so no one could escape. One year they were allowed out 9 years and another they weren’t taken outside at all.

The film focuses on the older brothers. The mother was certified by the state to homeschool the kids and they all spoke articulately and politely. The father had wanted 10 children as his dream of heading a tribe, but seven was the limit (biologically) for the mother. The father didn’t work; the father explained that he didn’t believe in work. I wondered what he did when he was out of the house for hours and hours. They family lived on welfare. The father dreamt of moving to Scandinavia, where the welfare was even better, but that never materialized.

The compelling thing about the documentary is how creative the boys were. To stave off boredom and keep sane, they watched the 5000+ DVDs that their dad had collected and then they’d copy the scripts and act out the films. They made clever props. It’s a good thing there were so many kids or they wouldn’t have enough actors.

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