Documentary film “Twinsters” starts its story with one unbelievable encounter which can happen only in our digital era. Two young women suddenly came to learn of each other’s presence through online communication, and they were naturally surprised by their uncanny resemblance. As they got to know more about each other, it became apparent to both of them that this was not a mere bizarre coincidence at all, and they could not help but excited by their life-changing discovery.
Their stranger-than-fiction story began in 2013 February, when Samantha Futerman, who made the documentary with her co-director Ryan Miyamoto, was contacted by a French girl named Anaïs Bordier. Futerman tells us how much she was surprised when she checked Bordier’s Facebook page, and we also hear about how Bordier was equally surprised when she came across Futerman through a YouTube video clip. As a young aspiring actress in LA, Futerman has appeared in several films including “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), “Across the Universe” (2007), and “21 & Over” (2013), and she did star in that YouTube video clip in question along with her friend Kevin Wu, a.k.a. KevJumba.
Once these two girls began their online interaction, they quickly bonded with each other, while already having a pretty good idea on the possible connection between them. Besides the fact that they happened to share the same birthday, both of them were born in South Korea and then adopted by their respective parents not long after their birth, so it was logical to infer that they were identical twins, and all they needed for 100% confirmation was doing a genetic test together.
Although an expert told them about a small possibility of wrong assumption, Futerman and Bordier found themselves feeling more of that special connection we often observe from identical twins. They talked more with each other as time went by, and they also introduced to each other their respective friends and family members.
As we watch their lively interactions being continued, we come to notice how one’s personality can be influenced by both biological and environmental factors. While Futerman and Bordier have lots of common things between them in addition to their nearly identical physical appearance (Futerman is 2 cm taller, by the way), Futerman is the more outgoing one compared to Bordier, and we are not very surprised about that as we learn a bit about their respective families. While both of them grew up well under their decent middle-class parents, Futerman was the third child of her American family in New Jersey, and Bordier was the only child of her French family. While Futerman’s two brothers were always someone to hang around with for young Futerman, young Bordier was often conscious of how she looked different from other kids in her neighborhood, and that might have contributed to her relatively introverted personality, which is one of several visible traits to distinguish her from her sister.
Nevertheless, Bordier can be cheerful just like her sister as shown from their first physical encounter in London, and she is also smart and promising in her own way. We watch her working as a fashion design student of the Central Saint Martins, and we later see her work being presented on the stage along with other students’ works.
As the girls spent their fun time together around London, Futerman’s family arrived in London, and so did Bordier’s parents. Everyone was happy and excited during their dinner at a restaurant, and it soon became Bordier’s turn to visit her sister in LA. One particular moment showing them lying together on the bed is probably the most intimate presentation of their growing bond; only several months had passed since their first encounter, but the girls knew and understood each other so well that they did not have to tell each other what made either of them smile or giggle.
The third act of their story involves with their visit to South Korea during 2013 August, and the documentary maintains its lighthearted mood despite some bitter aspects inside their story. While watching them attending a conference for many Korean adoptees who were sent abroad at early age just like them, I was reminded of Laurent Boileau Jung’s animated film “Approved for Adoption” (2012), which is based on Jung’s graphic novel inspired by his early life as a Korean adoptee in Belgium. Like Jung, Futerman, Bordier, and their fellow attendees are foreigners in the country where they were born, but they hope to know more about their root anyway.
Although Futerman and Bordier failed to meet their biological mother, they got the next best thing instead, and the documentary wisely does not overplay this moment. I was touched by their optimistic attitude shown around the end of the documentary; what they wish may never happen, but they do not give up their hope none the less.
While it feels a little too nice and neat at times, “Twinsters”, which received the Jury award for a smooth editing job by Jeff Consiglio at the SXSW Film Festival early in last year, is a pleasant and thoughtful documentary which does not outstay its welcome during its short running time (89 minutes). Futerman and Miyamoto present her personal story well on the screen, and I found her personality as engaging as her sister’s. I do not know what will possibly come next for her in future, but I sincerely wish this good documentary will be a forward step for her nascent acting/filmmaking career.