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Three Identical Strangers is a dynamic film that explores the unique life path of a set of triplets who were separated at birth only to meet almost two decades later. As part of a controversial scientific experiment, the triplets were adopted at six months of age by different families; unbeknownst to them that the boys were triplets. It’s a passionate and controversial documentary that equally brings excitement and pain as one watches the incredible saga and life story of Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman.
Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle, supported by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright and told through the lenses of Bobby, Eddy, and David, explores the “nurture vs. nature” concept of whether the basic tenants of human behavior are composed by nurture, through care and specific upbringing, or by nature, through the unique genetic composition of the individual. Ultimately, the debate is compartmentalized between two simple thoughts: are we a product of our hereditary or the environment in which we were brought up? Three Identical Strangers dives into this scientific debate through the story of these triplets who were separated at birth to specifically test and collate data to supplement this theory.
The film was a big hit 2018 Sundance Film Festival; winning the top documentary prize. It was also considered as one of the documentary contenders for the Academy Award and was an eventual nominee for the British Academy Awards. Director Tim Wardle brings these immersing stories through a series of interviews, dramatized scenes and archival footage as it weaves through decades of storytelling. It was Shafran and Galland who first met on a college campus as Bobby would be greeted as Eddy by people he didn’t know. He would later find out they were referring to his twin brother; a brother he had never met. Described as what could only be a truly out of body experience staring at a clone of yourself, both Bobby and Eddy developed a friendship as their unlikely union caught fire and was exposed by the press. Yet this story took another unexpected turn; it was through the press that David Kellman saw his brothers reached out and the trio finally came together. Triplets - separated at birth, united by fate, and forever linked.
What came next was fame as the triplets hit the talk show circuit and their story became known throughout the world. They speak about people’s fascination with their unique upbringing and rightly so. Imagine waking up one day and learning that not only do you have a brother you never knew, but you’re actually one of three. Wardle entertains his audience by granting us archival footage from their many television visits in which the viewer clearly sees the insatiable chemistry between brothers. It almost feels too good to be true and that alone would be enough material to produce a documentary. However, the real source of the film’s dramatic streak lies within the actions taken by the adoptive agency and the scientists behind the controversial experiment.
The triplets were adopted through the Louise Wise Services, a New York City-based adoption agency. The adoptive parents were not informed that the adopted babies were actually triplets. Each baby was placed in a home in separate economic conditions and parenting philosophies and studied by renowned child psychoanalyst Dr. Peter Neubauer. Dr. Neauber passed away in 2008, however, Tim Wardle travels to meet with Natasha Josefowitz, a 90-year-old woman who was Dr. Neauber’s research assistant and was present at the peak of these studies pursued Dr. Neauber.
The brothers (Bobby and Eddy, as David Kellman committed suicide in 1995) are visibly shaken as the film progresses and openly discuss the struggles they faced due to this experiment; a struggle that eventually led Kellman to take his own life. It’s a raw account of the journey these brothers had to go through and the audience will feel this rollercoaster. As cheery and dynamic the film presents itself in the beginning, it takes a darker road as we understand how difficult their lives were as they got older.
Regardless of what side of the debate the audience may find itself in, HBO viewers have an amazing opportunity to watch this great story of survival. Three Identical Strangers - available now on HBO and HBO GO.
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