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Review: Three Identical Strangers
by Karen Pecota

Filmmaker Tim Wardle reveals a remarkable dark tale of Jewish triplets split at birth in his documentary Three Identical Strangers. The triplets, Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman are united by happen-chance at the age of nineteen. Wardle uses a combination of reenactments and interviews to piece together a story of heartache, disillusionment and shock that begins with a phenomenally joyful reunion of adult triplets.

In 1980, Eddy attended a near-by community college (Sullivan County Community College) but was not planning to return for the second year. Bobby enters the same college the beginning of the school year that Eddy drops out. Bobby doesn't know a soul at his new college but was overwhelmed that everyone knew him. The students who knew Eddy were thrilled that he was returning because he was the life-of-the-party kind of guy. Everybody loved Eddy.

Galland's best friend, David, heard that Eddy returned but knew for a fact, Eddy had not returned, thus the need to check out this Eddy imposter. Once in plain sight, the friend was shocked. He even commented on that fact they had the same hands. He had to take Bobby to meet Eddy. And, immediately! In his mind they were one in the same.

Bobby and Eddy were amazed that they looked exactly alike, shared the same birthday, smoked the same cigarettes, had the same interests, mannerisms and notably had the same hands. Local newspapers deemed the story front page worthy that included photos about a chance encounter reuniting twins after being split up at birth. Little did the media outlets know that there would be more intrigue to their narrative that would be ripe for a modern day thriller.

David Kellman read the account of the twins and thought it odd that he looked exactly like them, had the same birthday and was also adopted. Their meeting was surreal. The phenomenon continued in that there were now Three Identical Strangers.

The discovery of finding each other led to a life of excitement, celebrity status and joy for several years until the reality set-in that while they were identical in appearance they were extremely different in their upbringing. The typical triplet similarities being raised in the same environment weren't as obvious in these boys which sparked a curiosity to their backstory.

Wardle documents how the boys come to grips with an unimaginable history of mental illness which begins after the sudden and tragic death of Eddy at the age of thirty-three.

Writer and journalist, Lawrence Wright, helped to discover that in the 1960s there were several identical siblings given up for adoption through Louise Wise Services in New York City who were split up, as a part of a social experiment called "nature versus nurture" under the direction of psychoanalyst Peter Neubauer. His collaboration with the Jewish run orphanage was not common knowledge to anyone outside of the experiment staff and the Jewish run institution that has long since dissolved.

The riveting story Wardle documents leaves many questions unanswered and a film audience numb to the fact that Neubauer's wish was that his findings would remain under lock and key until all the participants are dead and gone. David and Bobby fight the courts to unlock the trove of documentation to search for answers because according to them, "We were not participants, we were victims."