Unknown White Male

Unknown White Male


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

When I saw FilmFour's Unknown White Male at Sundance last year. I was struck by what an amazing story it was - tracking, as it does, Doug Bruce, a man who suffered complete amnesia, as he tries to rebuild his life.

Watching the film, you can't fail to be moved by his attempts to reconnect with a family and friends he can't remember. I said at the time that the direction struck me as overly clever - and now it seems it may have been too clever to even be true.

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A debate has been raging Stateside about the veracity of the story. Eternal Sunshine director Michel Gondry - who researched amnesia for his film - told GQ he didn't believe it was authentic and top US reviewer Roger Ebert also joined the throng of those questioning how a successful stockbroker could disappear unnoticed by any national press - although he was later quoted as having been convinced by the filmmakers.

The producer and director are adamant this is documentary, not mockumentary, so it is somewhat unfortunate that the film should receive its UK release on the week beginning April 1 and on the same day that Alien Autopsy - a film all about a televisual hoax - hits the screen.

Whether the story is true or not does have a bearing on how good you think it is. Certainly, I found it convincing when I saw it - if a bit too arty-farty in the direction department. It's hard not to feel the emotion of Bruce as he talks about meeting his sister 'for the first time' and his bewilderment at being able to remember nothing, yet still being able to sign his own signature. Also touching are his rediscovery of things the rest of us tend to take for granted.

Personally, I suspect that if it really were a fake, definitive evidence would have come to light by now. Also, if it is a mock-up, Doug Bruce should be nominated for an acting award immediately. Then again, some of the situations seem just a little convenient - a swanky apartment, Doug's London background - and there does seem to be a lack of definitive medical evidence. As it is, you can do little but marvel at this incredible story - though the direction leaves something to be desired.

Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2006
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Unknown White Male packshot
Controversial documentary about an amnesiac.
Amazon link

Director: Rupert Murray

Starring: Doug Bruce and family

Year: 2005

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: USA, UK


Sundance 2005

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