by ASH

Truth is indeed Stranger than Fiction in this bizarre nature vs nurture story told in the wild documentary that is Three Identical Strangers. Winner of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize in storytelling, the documentary takes us along on a ride into how three identical twins were separated at birth, and reconnected when they were 19.

Movies like The Parent Trap, as unbelievable as it may be, pales in comparison to triplets Robert (Bobby) Shafran, David Kellman and Eddy Galland’s lives.

It all started in 1980, when then 19-year-old Bobby began his college life at the Sullivan County Community College in New York. It was an odd day for him, as people were over-friendly, giving warm hellos, cheery waves and a girl even kissed him on the lips. It was when someone addressed him as Eddy that he realised it was a case of mistaken identity. As it turned out, the resemblance between Eddy and Bobby was uncanny. They both spot a curly mop of hair, big in build and even walk the same.

Friends started to put the pieces of the jigsaw together, and the pair realised they were born on the exact same day. The media went to town with the story of the twins, fascinated with the story about two identical boys finding out that they were twins even though they were from different parts of the state. The media blitz caught the attention of David’s friends, who were shocked at the similarities between their friend and Bobby and Eddy. This prompted David to contact Eddy’s mother, and just like that, the triplets were reunited.

What ensues is the unfolding of a two-decade conspiracy that as the triplets started digging deeper, more secrets come spilling out. The three were born to a single mother who gave them up for adoption. Except that unbeknownst to her, this is no ordinary adoption. The agency- Louise Wise agency, sought to do an experiment. All three were adopted by Jewish families, one went to an affluent family, one went to a middle-class family and the third was brought up in a blue-collar household. The reason? They were part of a “nature versus nurture” study, which tracks the development of the identical siblings raised in different circumstances.

The documentary, consisting of footage of the triplets as children growing up, their time during the national obsession when their story unfolded in the news and beyond. In the footage, the three were inseparable when they found one another, and as if to answer the question of nature vs nurture, the three display shockingly similar behaviours and suffered from mental issues. Beyond that, they also practise wrestling and smoke the same brand of cigarettes.

After the brothers became inseparable upon reuniting, they starred as “Triplets” in Madonna’s Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985, and even opened a restaurant in New York City called Triplets Roumanian Steakhouse.

BAFTA-nominated documentary director Tim Wardle and team dive into the ramifications of the study done on the triplets. By withholding information about their biological roots, they deny the trio from discovering elements that could help with their mental health issues. While the three reuniting is a super sweet story, there is a cautionary lesson to learn from in this documentary, and that is how, in the name of Science, humanity- in this case, it’s Bobby, Eddy and David, is the sacrifice.

And is it worth it? 

Three Identical Strangers

Trivia: Three Identical Strangers is really a documentary that makes a difference. After watching it last year, Michele Mordkoff, who was also adopted from the Louise Wise agency, started to wonder if she might be a twin. She went on a DNA hunt and did indeed find out that she had a twin sister! The sisters have since reunited. Although this begs the question of whether there are more twins, triplets or quadruplets out there.