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True/False Conversations - Nature Versus Nuture in 'Three Identical Strangers'


This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year's True/False Film Fest.


Individuality in personality can often be taken for granted. In Three Identical Strangers, Director Tim Wardle tells the story of Robert Shafran, David Kellman, and Eddy Galland. The three men are triplets, separated at birth who reconnect later in life by pure chance. The film explores the nature vs nurture debate and what it means to be an individual. Three Identical Strangers takes the audience on a journey exploring the darkness of human curiosity in an eerie, complex and unimaginable tale.

Wardle: It’s an extraordinary story about three brothers separated at birth raised by completely different families who have no idea that any of them had a sibling and then reunited completely by chance in 1980 New York. And it’s kind of the story of what happens next and also why they were separated.

Rodriguez: I noticed that you said that there was a lot of conspiracy theories about why this story hasn't been told yet, could you kind of talk a little bit about that and what your journey was to finding this film?

Wardle: So, I was working in development at Raw, the production company that made the film and someone, a producer called Grace Hughes-Hallett, brought in the story. And instantly when I saw it I realized it was one of the most extraordinary stories I've ever come across. And the second thought really was why had no one told this story before and over the five year journey it took us to take this from the initial idea to making the film, I kind of began to realize there were a huge number of reasons why it hadn't been made and we ultimately discovered there were three attempts by major U.S. networks, two in the 80s one in the 90s, to tell this story and in each case it was shut down and the people who worked on it were never really told why it was shut down. It did make us quite paranoid when we were making the film that we were going to be shut down at any moment.

Rodriguez: Yeah, cause it is such a complex story and I could see how a lot of different people would maybe not want this story to be broadcasted on this kind of level.

Wardle: You know I really want people see this film as cold as possible. With as little as pre knowledge as they can because I think if you go in like that, it really does take you on a journey, you see the film going one way and it goes somewhere completely different.

Rodriguez: What were you trying to accomplish? Were you trying to tackle one of these concepts or did you kind of just plan to tell their story how it was?

Wardle: It's a combination of the two. I'm a big believer that documentaries should be on one level entertaining and they should take you on a journey, and I think the best documentaries tackle wider issues. Personally I'm not a big fan of documentaries that are just issue driven. It's like here's the issue now where is the story? We were more like, here's the story, what are the issues that it touches on? When people were bidding for the film and it's been bought by distributors so it is going to be in theatres in the US. One of the things they said was 'Oh the film explores the nature, nurture debate and no film or documentary tackles it, certainly not oner recently. And I kept thinking, oh that must be wrong, because nature nurture is such a massive theme, but I still can't think of ones that really tackle it sort of tangentially. But this is on one level quite explicitly about that about whether your genetics or environment make you the person you are.