'Three Identical Strangers' Director on Striving for "Emotional Truth"

"If you don't have a kind of emotional truth to your storytelling, then the audiences aren't going to connect with it," Tim Wardle told THR's Documentary Roundtable.

It took four years for filmmaker Tim Wardle to convince his subjects for Three Identical Strangers to agree to be a part of his documentary. "I got engaged, married and had a child in the space of time it took us to convince them to take part in the film," he told The Hollywood Reporter's Documentary Roundtable. 

The documentary focuses on three adult men who come to find that they are brothers, separated as children. "It was pretty hard going because of the trauma that had been inflicted on them," Wardle continued, "and the sense that they'd been let down by so many people in the past."

Wardle said he believes being British helped convince his film's subjects to join the project, explaining, "Sometimes being an outsider can be really useful. Really, it's just a process of earning trust. You can't do anything without trust."

After his film was complete, Wardle remembers showing it to the two surviving brothers separately. "They both got up and hugged me afterward, and it wasn't about liking the film. It was like, 'You did what you said you were going to do.' And I realized at that moment — I hadn't realized it making it — they'd been let down so many times by so many people, that just the act of literally following through on what I said I was going to do was a huge moment for them."

"Emotional truth is what we are striving for in [the] documentary," Wardle told the roundtable. "If you don't have a kind of emotional truth to your storytelling, then the audiences aren't going to connect with it. That's part of what makes it cinematic — eliciting that emotional response. I wanted the audience to go through what they went through."