Nicholas Barclay (13) had finished playing basketball with his friends and called his mom to pick him up, but she was asleep. He never made it home.

That was in June 13th, 1994. The day after he had a sentencing hearing for some juveline criminal activity, so at first his family thought he had disappeared willingly. Then, when they finally reported him missing, police couldn’t find any trace of him.

Three years passed without any news from Nicholas, until the Barclay family received a call from a youth shelter in Spain. A man said Nicholas was living there after escaping from a pedophile ring operation. His sister flew to Spain, identified him and brought him home.

His mother instantly believed it was him, but other members of the family started to get suspicious, especially when he refused to give blood samples or fingerprints that would prove his identity. After getting the FBI involved, they found out the truth.

The man who claimed to be Nicholas was really a 23 year old french con man called Frederic Bourdin. He’d got Nicholas’ information in a missing child center and at some point claimed he had met the boy, but later denied it. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Nicholas Barclay remains missing. His older brother, who once said had seen him trying to get in the house after he disappeared, was considered a suspect but he died of an overdose in 1998.

This weird story is the subject of a fascinating documentary called The Imposter. which you can find in the US Netflix.


On June 13, 1994, 13-year-old NIcholas Barclay disappeared from a friend’s home in San Antonio, Texas. Known as a troublemaker at the center of family disputes that often ended in calls to the police, the Barclay family assumed that Nicholas had run away and would return home, but he never did.

Three years into his disappearance, the Barclays received a call from a shelter in Spain claiming that their son was living at a shelter following an escape from a child sex ring. Nicholas’s sister immediately flew to Spain and brought him home to Texas. Despite having dark hair, brown eyes, a significant French accent, and looking much older than sixteen, the Barclay family believed that their son was finally home. Nicholas claimed that his abductors had altered his hair and eye color, and he had picked up the accent on his own. 

After a media frenzy, people grew suspicious that this man was not Nicholas Barclay. He refused to give fingerprints or participate in DNA tests to prove his identity, yet the Barclays defended their son. In 1998, the FBI received a court order to obtain the man’s fingerprints, revealing that the man was not Nicholas, but Frederic Pierre Bourdin, a 23-year-old French citizen with a history of similar crimes. Bourdin was taken into custody and eventually sentenced to six years in prison. 

Authorities began investigating the Barclays for Nicholas’s disappearance after Bourdin’s sentencing and knowledge of familial violence and drug abuse surfaced. Some believe that the family was so quick to accept Frederic Bourdin as Nicholas because they had killed him and his “return” would cover their tracks. Though claims have been made, nothing has been proven and Nicholas’s case is still unsolved.

(Side note: A documentary titled The Imposter profiles the case and features the story from Frederic Bourdin’s perspective. It’s available online and Netflix.)

REviewlets: The Imposter

In 1994, 13 year old Nicholas Barclay disappeared in Texas.  Three years later, Spanish police receive a phone call concerning a young boy, who would them claim to be Nicholas and be reunited with his family.  But here’s the thing; he wasn’t Nicholas.

The Imposter is a documentary that presents a story that is incredibly difficult to believe, and almost as difficult to take seriously.  Frederic Bourdin is the imposter in question, and he does most of the story telling throughout.  Also interviewed are members of the Barclay family, who unfathomably believed (or perhaps pretended to believe) that Bourdin was Nicholas, despite a huge number of very clear signs that he was not who he claimed to be.

There is little in the way of archive footage in this documentary, so there are re-creations of what those involved say happened, as well as face-to-face interviews with everyone.  It’s an incredibly unsettling film that will leave you with many questions when it finishes.  

What drove Bourdin to do what he did?

Why did the Barclay family believe Bourdin was Nicholas?

And, most importantly, what really happened to Nicholas?

The Imposter is certainly one of the best documentaries of the year, but even seeing it may not make you believe it.

It’s like… it throws you within five minutes. The quasi-noir drama scenes that go between the footage go beyond mere reconstruction, serving as a constant reminder that this story is something straight out of a film. You think you know, you think… “Okey doke, gonna hear from all the family members about the eventual unraveling of this strange tale.” And then you get the above and realise fuck, I’m going to hear from him, the whole story from the titular imposter himself.

And you’re hooked… and he reels you in. 


This docu-film absolutely blew my mind. There’s not  much I can say that won’t spoil anyone who likes surprises, but it’s an insanely captivating story and seriously fucking bizarre. I honestly thought I was going to have a heart attack at one point. Check out the trailer, and the IMDB synopsis below. It’s a must watch.

The Imposter

A documentary centered on a young Frenchman who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years.

I think they did it

I just watched Imposter on CNN. I don’t understand why no one got a warrant before to dig in the Barclay yard… I mean the brother pretty much killed himself and he said “good luck” to Bourdin when he first came back with the family. I think it’s really weird how they didn’t realize he wasn’t their son. I’m mean… Come on. There are a lot of unexplained things.


The Imposter is a docudrama that tells the true story of 13 year old boy who went missing in 1993 from his home in San Antonio, Texas and then re-appeared 4 years later in rural Spain. This is a film where the less you know going in, the better. If you’re at all interested in this documentary you should try to avoid as much information as possible and simply go see it. Just know this; it is engrossing, edge of your seat thrilling and tense with fantastic production values. This is as close to a masterpiece as you’re likely to see this year.

As the title suggests, the person who re-appeared in Spain was not, in fact, the same boy who disappeared. 13 year old, blonde haired, blue eyed American Nicolas Barclay went missing and 23 year old, dark haired, brown eyed, French, Frederic Bourdin appeared, taking Nicolas’ identity. He fooled authorities, social workers and even the boy’s family.  The film asks the questions ‘why did he do this?’ and ‘how did he get away with it?’

The film uses a mixture of talking heads, reconstructions, actual footage and beautiful pick up shots. Bourdin, as well as the family and other key players, is given the opportunity to tell the story in his own words. He is a wonderful protagonist; charismatic, intriguing, mesmerising; we hang on his every word. This is documentary in the truest sense of the word; it simply documents the events and lets the players tell their own story. Constantly shifting focus, sympathies, guilt, and shame and never biased or making moral judgements, it simply tells the story as is and lets the audience make its own opinions and assumptions.

Making a documentary fit for cinema screens is a difficult task no matter how good the story you’re telling. However, The Imposter manages it in spades; the direction, editing, production values, incidental music, soundtrack and story-telling craft are all brilliant making for a truly impressive cinematic experience.

While the film lulls slightly in the middle there is a point about half an hour from the end where it really steps up a gear and you spend the rest of the film with an anxious knot in your stomach, constantly trying to decipher and piece together the information that you’ve been given.

Amidst all the information and confusion, the final scenes leave us wondering what the truth is. What is the reality? Can we believe any of what we’ve seen or heard or have we been taken in by Bourdin’s fabrications like so many others?

The Imposter

I’m just done watching this movie/documentary about a man who impersonates a boy who went missing in 1994 named Nicholas Barclay. He pretends to be a 16 year old American who got kidnapped by the army and experimented on and raped. While actually he’s a 23 year old French male who’s assumed to have stolen over 500 identities. 

He’s taken home by his “sister” after being lost for 3 years. And you feel so sorry for them, knowing what a basterd the guy is who’s impersonating a young missing boy. But I have to say, I didn’t really see the “twist” coming.. And I’m udderly shocked. 

If you like crime documentaries and such, this is worth the watch. Even though the movie aspect is a little annoying.. I did like the story.. And I really do feel sad for the boy. 

Okay, so I watched The Imposter yesterday evening

and even today I’m finding that the movie is still freaking me out.

I had no knowledge of the story behind the disappearence of Nicholas Barclay prior to yesterday and so basically I spent a lot of this documentary questioning whether it actually was a genuine documentary or if it was more of a Catfish deal (I realise that people still believe Catfish to be real, but come on!)

I think this inability to seperate reality from fiction was partly down to the way the film was made, mixing (apparently) real footage and sit-down interview type material with reenacted drama.  I now know, having Googled and Wikipedia’d the story, that this actually did happen and that The Imposter is a completely genuine documentary.

All of which makes it even creepier.  It’s difficult to fathom why the family of Nicholas Barclay accepted this young man who they patently knew wasn’t their missing son into their family.  I found myself completely bamboozled:  were they stupid or just plain desperate?  The film sort of almost addresses this point, but effectively just leaves it hanging once it is established that it wasn’t because they had murdered their son.

In fact, strangely, I think I’m finding the family’s motives more difficult to grasp than those of the French confidence man, Frederic Bourdin, who managed to con his way into receiving a passport and US citizenship and, for whatever reason, managed to convince this family that he was their lost son.  Bourdin is obviously crazy - he was wanted by Interpol for similar crimes in the past and he went on to impersonate missing boys in France and Spain - and so his motivation is easier to come to terms with.  But I still don’t get why the Barclay’s so readily accepted him as Nicholas?


The film is a documentary, in the vain of the ‘banged up abroad’ type documentaries, with talking heads, real footage and made up footage.

It is told from different points of view, from the view of the imposter, the victims, and the many different authorities which are brought into the story.

The imposter is the main focus of the story, it seems like we should feel sorry for him, but its unlikely to happen. They delve into his back story of a broken home, and he goes on about being part of a family, which is what lead him to do what he did. It also seems that he was caught in a lie, and it just seemed to snowball, with him not wanting to get caught out, but also wanting to be part of a family.

The family is believed the guy, even though, he looked much older than he says he is, and has no similarities to the child who he is claiming to be. From the beginning, even through ludicrous, its just funny what people will believe if/when they have to.

The bit that didn’t come up for me, until it was mentioned, was that maybe the family KILLED the child, that is why they took this stranger into their house, to cover up the fact that they killed him. This never struck me, but when the imposter brought it up, it kinda made sense, and made me realise how sinister not only the imposter was, but the family themselves.

At the end of it, you just don’t feel sorry for anyone. With all the allegations being thrown about, you cant help but wonder why either side did what they did.