A documentary tracing the remarkable story of orphaned twin sisters, separated at birth, who only discover each other due to a chance encounter on social media, has screened its international premiere in the Korean city where the girls were born.
“We had to bring our crazy story here because this is where it all started,” explained Samantha Futerman - one of the stars of "Twinsters", which she also co-directs.
The documentary has been a hit at the Busan International Film Festival, with packed Q & A sessions following its screenings over the weekend and has been lauded on social media.
"I think what we have done is shown people how great the adoption experience can be,” said 27-year-old Futerman.
“Previously most of the time when it comes to a story about adoption it is sad or tragic whereas our story is so inspiring and hopeful.”
The Los Angeles-based actress –- who appeared in the 2005 film "Memoirs of a Geisha" -- told how in 2013 she was contacted via Facebook by Anais Bordier, a French fashion student living in London.
Bordier has previously explained how a friend had happened upon a YouTube clip that featured Futerman and had been amazed by how similar the two young women looked. Bordier then watched the clip and was so surprised she investigated further.
She noticed from Futerman’s Facebook profile that the pair had both been born in Korea on the same date. She then decided to contact her.
“When I got that message it was almost too crazy to not be true,” Futerman told AFP on Monday.
The pair soon took DNA tests, which confirmed what Futerman said they both had known immediately –- that they were sisters.
Futerman had been adopted soon after birth by an American couple and raised in New Jersey, while Bordier had been adopted by a French couple and raised in Paris. Neither had any inkling they had any siblings, let alone an identical twin.
- 'Mind-boggling similarity' -
Futerman immediately began recording their experience on film and "Twinsters" captures every moment, from the sisters’ first call on Skype, to when they first meet in London and stand for a moment blinking at their mirror image in disbelief.
“Everything was out of this world,” said Futerman. “At first it was just really awkward to finally be in the same physical space. When we met our hair was the same, our skin tone was the exact same colour, our nail polish was the same.”
The documentary’s heartwarming tale is expanded beyond the initial reveal as Futerman and co-director Ryan Miyamoto go on to explore wider issues the emotional reunion ignites.
One of those is the debate over whether personality is developed via “nature” or “nurture” and Futerman is now convinced.
I was always ‘nurture’ person and this really changed my mind,” said. “We are so similar it is mind boggling.”
Together the pair set out to trace their roots back to Korea, and the cameras follow them through their encounters with their initial foster mothers and at a convention of Korean adoptees, and through an attempt to get in touch with their birth mother.
The pair’s story received widespread coverage in Korea and worldwide when it broke in 2013. The project received more than $43,000 from hundreds of backers via funding platform Kickstarter.
The issue of adoption has long been a contentious one in the country, with estimates that around 200,000 have been sent overseas since the end of the Korean war in 1953.
In the end, South Korean officials interviewed for the "Twinsters" are unable to explain either why the twins were separated at birth, or why Bordier’s documents claim she was born in Seoul when they were both in fact born in Busan.
Futerman said the filmmakers had been focused on bringing "Twinsters" to Korea since its world premiere at the South by Southwest festival in Texas in March, where it picked up a special jury award. It is expected to be shown in cinemas across Asia in early 2016.
“There is a signification community like us in Asia and we want our film to reach out to them,” said Futerman. Bordier was unable to attend the event due to commitments in Paris.
The Busan festival continues until Saturday October 11.