Dallas Movie Screening

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

DIFF2018 - Three Identical Strangers

Imagine going off to college a few hours from home and while you are walking around the campus, a large number of people seem to recognize you and greet you as If you were a long lost friend. To top it all off, they call you Eddy, which is not your name. You are Bobby. A person in your dorm, who is friends with Eddy asks all the right questions and helps you determine you have a twin, who he quickly takes you a few hours away to go see. When you meet Eddy, you are looking at a near carbon copy of yourself. Your story hits the newspapers in the New York/New Jersey area and friends of a third young man, David, show the article to him. It is quickly discovered you are not a twin but a triplet.

You all meet and it is like no time has passed. The bond is immediate and you all seek to spend all possibly time together. The world eats your story up like a banana split sundae. You become media darlings and your lives will never be the same. The reunion is happy and joyous despite the lost time. Your relationship is confirmed in that you all have the same birthday and were adopted from the same adoption agency in New York: the Louise Wise agency, a top organization for the placement of Jewish

babies. You move in together, spend every moment possible together, socializing and partying at all the best places. You meet wonderful girls and all eventually marry and you all three go into the restaurant business together, opening a restaurant that capitalizes on the fact that you are triplets. Everyone comes to meet you and business is fabulous. Then the cracks begin to appear. And the similarities start to point to something more sinister.

It is discovered that you all have one older adopted sister. Not everyone was adopted into the same situation; one family was well off, one was middle class and one was working class. You have a hard time finding your adoption records and when searching for your mother, it is learned that there is a history of serious mental illness on her side. You remember that people used to come into your home to observe you and put you through tasks. Your brothers report the same memories. The more you dig for information, the tighter the doors begin to close. You discovered that you were deliberately separated and studied, with your parents never being told that you were one of three identical brothers. The researchers did know this fact but told no one. While you have quite a few similar mannerisms, tastes and preferences it becomes increasingly clear that the reasons for your separation, adoption and subsequent study had more dastardly components, not unlike those that governed studies in Nazi Germany. It is discovered that all of you suffered with emotional and mental conditions growing up and were met with different responses to that from your families. Not everyone fared so well, as a result but you know you weren’t given access to information or treatment opportunities via the researchers who know all about what could have possibly been passed to you genetically due to predisposition.

The acclaimed documentary, directed by Tim Wardle, allows the viewer to meet the boys in person, via old film and old photographs from their youth and asks that you listen to their story, as well as their thoughts, feeling and questions about it all. Scientist have long been interested in the factors of nature vs nurture but when you have come from a parentage plagued by mental illness and you begin to feel that it is the emergence of that factor in your life that they are most interested in observing, paired with the parenting styles with which you were raised (which were full well known by the researchers due to your adopted older sister being placed with the families) that feelings of anger, frustration and resentment emerge regarding what you were not told, what all you missed in terms of “family”, and the apparently secrecy surrounding the study, of which the results were never released, published or know. You discover the records are sealed until longer after you will be gone from this earth.

Three Identical Strangers asks many many questions especially regarding the ethics of behavioral research, and the rights of its subjects, especially when they are innocent children who have no idea what has been manipulated in their lives. What is real and what is deliberately part of the experiment. And you cannot get answers. It is also discovered that there are more sets of identicals affected, primarily twins. In fact, it is pointed out that there are possibly people living out their lives who have no idea that they have a twin sibling. While the reunion was triumphant, the result is more tragedy. The story is made all the more poignant through the many interviews with parents, siblings, wives, friends and others involved in the actual research. It is pointed out that the main researchers have passed on, while others in the know are decidedly tight lipped about the study. It is quite sad that nothing was learned that has been released, and those here today will never know for a generation will have passed before Yale releases the sealed paperwork. All in all, the sad and tragic story makes for interesting viewing and will certainly appeal to those interested in sociology and psychology as well as human development.
(Review by Cheryl Wurtz)

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