Monday, 25 March 2019

Separated at birth, a shocking true story

Separated at birth, a shocking true story

IMAGINE that at birth you had had an identical twin from whom you were subsequently and unknowingly separated.

How would their life have differed to yours, taking into account their different upbringing and schooling?

Tim Wardle’s award-winning documentary Three Identical Strangers is the story of three brothers who unwittingly got to find out the answer to that question.

In the autumn of 1980, 19-year-old Bobby Shafran walked on to the campus of a New York community college for the first time.

Nothing unusual about that — except that many of the students already seemed to know him.

It turned out that the person they actually knew was Eddy Galland, who proved to be Bobby’s long-lost twin brother, with each having been adopted at birth by different parents.

Reading the story of the pair’s happy reunion in the newspapers soon after, David Kellman experienced a shock of recognition — Bobby and Eddy both looked just like him.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the three were confirmed as siblings and — flushed with their newfound celebrity — decided to open a restaurant together in New York.

But then harder questions started to be asked, such as how they had come to be separated in the first place.

Over the course of 97 astonishing minutes, Tim Wardle’s film lays out the whole story. The brothers’ questions — and those of their adoptive parents — led back to the agency that had arranged the adoptions back in the early Sixties.

The three brothers were born to a single mother on July 12, 1961. They were actually quadruplets, but the fourth brother sadly died at birth. Once the decision to put the boys up for adoption was taken, the agency acted on the recommendation of psychiatrists Viola W Bernard and Peter B Neubauer.

This saw the three infants intentionally placed with families at different economic levels — one blue-collar, one middle-class, and one wealthy — who had each adopted a baby girl from the same agency two years earlier.

The idea was to track the development of genetically identical siblings raised in differing circumstances.

While the nature-nurture debate continues to be an area of considerable scientific interest and speculation, many people would now regard such twin studies as an unacceptable form of “playing God”.

Three Identical Strangers is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse cinema.

Matthew Wilson

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