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31 May 2019. For our last movie night of the year, tíc members met to see a documentary for the first time, but it sometimes seemed much more like fiction! Three Identical Strangers tells the true story of identical American triplets, born in New York in 1961 to an unwed mother and given up for adoption via a reputable agency that specialized in placing Jewish children with Jewish families. The boys were adopted as six-month-old infants by separate families, unaware that each child had brothers.
It was discovered quite by accident when Bobby enrolled in a local Junior College and everyone seemed to know him, and called him Eddy. When he and Eddy met, both said it was like looking in the mirror. A journalist wrote about the reconnected twins and a third sibling, David, recognized himself in the accompanying photo – thus at the age of 19, the triplets met. Not only were they physically identical, they had similar mannerisms and discovered many shared interests. They became an overnight sensation appearing on many television talk shows and being written about in numerous magazines. They became inseparable, renting an apartment together in New York and doing everything together…but then things started to get a bit strange.
Their parents were furious not to have been told their adopted sons were part of identical triplets. While the agency originally told them they had separated the boys out of fears that no one would want to adopt triplets, another story slowly came to light. The separations were done as part of an undisclosed scientific “nature versus nurture” twin study, to track the development of genetically identical siblings raised in differing circumstances. The study was conceived of, and run by, renowned psychiatrist Dr. Neubauer, an Austrian Jew who had fled to America to avoid the Holocaust.
The separated triplets (and twins) were intensely studied in their homes for years, doing a barrage of tests to determine their development. Those carrying out the tests on the boys knew each had 2 identical siblings, but could not let their subjects know. The triplets opened a restaurant in New York — Triplets — selling Eastern European fare and had a ball in the early days, but eventually tempers began to fray as arguments flared over work responsibilities. Eventually, all three struggled with mental health issues for years. The Scientific study was never published. The triplets as well as other twins are – to this day – unable to look at the results.
Needless to say, we had plenty to discuss after the movie! All 6 of us liked the movie, which touched on a lot of human questions and relationships, and enjoyed the surprise element. It had a remarkable number of plot twists for a documentary! We all thought it was so strange that a Jewish doctor who had escaped the Holocaust would carry out experiments similar to those done in Concentration camps. Our discussion brought to light the fact that there was a lot of unethical research (Stanford prison, Milgram) carried out in this period.
After talking about the film for a while, we drifted into other topics: politics, the horrors of Trump, house renovations, the challenges of being vegetarian, getting an education, and how much fun the tícNic is. While everyone who came to the film has a very busy life, all agreed that a night out at the movies with tíc was a fun way to spend a Friday evening!
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