Imagine if you walked in somewhere you’d never been before, and everyone seemed to know who you were. They waved at you, clapped you on the back and stuff, greeted you as though you knew each other, but you had no idea who they were. That would be weird, right?
That happened to one of the stars of a new documentary, but was only the beginning.
Robert Shafran walked into college in 1980, when he was 19, and people knew him - or rather, they thought he was Eddy Galland, another student who’d transferred to a different college the year before. Eventually the two of them met, and realised they were more than just similar - they were identical. When their story hit the news, another 19-year-old, David Kellman, saw a resemblance and, hey presto, suddenly there were three of them. And they all liked wrestling. And they all had similar IQs. And they’d all lost their virginity around the same time.
New doc Three Identical Strangers follows their story, and has been winning rave reviews at Sundance. Because it didn’t stop there, of course - they didn’t just have a nice meal together, take some wacky photos and move on with their lives. How had this happened? Where had they come from? Who were they?
All had been adopted from the same New York adoption agency, but none of their families had been told that they were from a multiple birth (there was actually a fourth boy as well, who died at birth). Rather, they were part of a secret experiment into nature versus nurture, as scientists monitored various psychological and behavioural elements of their lives, under the guise of a general study about adopted children. Deeply unethical and shrouded in secrecy, the study is yet to be published and - not to give too much away about what happened to the triplets - definitely affected the triplets’ lives for the worse.
Here’s British director Tim Wardle’s description of the story:
Intriguing, right? Hella hella intriguing. Twin studies are really important in science, especially looking into where lines between nature and nurture, and genetic and environmental factors, are drawn. But they’re also ethical minefields, particularly if the efficacy of the study requires hiding information from the participants.
There’s no word yet on a UK release for Three Identical Strangers, but based on the great reviews it’s been getting, it seems fairly likely it’ll get picked up.