separated at birth: these twins found each other through facebook and made a movie about it
Sisters Samantha Futerman and Anaïs Bordier discuss their new documentary, 'Twinsters.'
photography sam evans-butler
"Separated at birth" is the beginning of a fairytale. Or it's a joke you make when someone sends you a photo of a freaky animal; it's not a phrase that usually applies to real life. But two years ago, French fashion student Anaïs Bordier, then 24, saw a video of a girl on YouTube that looked eerily, almost exactly, like her. She spoke with an American accent but she had the same 4'11" frame, the same dark hair, the same freckles. Her nostrils flared the same way. Anaïs found her in another video, a movie trailer, and looked her up on IMDb. Her name was Samantha Futerman and she'd had a supporting role in Memoirs of a Geisha and a bit part in Julie Taymor's Across the Universe.
In the age of Facebook, it doesn't take a chance summer camp encounter to meet your long-lost twin. Anaïs sent Samantha a message through the social media site, and not long after they talked for the first time over Skype. After hours of transatlantic conversations - in which they discovered that they had both been adopted and were both born in Busan, South Korea on November 19, 1987 - they agreed to get a DNA test, which confirmed what they already suspected: they are identical twins.
This is all documented in a new film called Twinsters, which premiered at SXSW and opened in cinemas this week. Co-directed by Sam and filmmaker Ryan Miyamoto, it's a collage of all the many, many Skype calls, text messages (which pop up onscreen, filled with emojis), and eventual real-life meetings between the two girls. In keeping with their characters, it's upbeat and filled with giggling. (If either of the sisters had an existential crisis about discovering she had a twin, you don't see it.) They joke about swapping places to trick Anaïs' friends during her graduate showcase at Central Saint Martins and laugh when they discover they both hate cooked carrots. It's a story about family, identity, connection and all the big things, but it's also about how funny life can be.
Anaïs, what was your first reaction when your friend showed you the YouTube video of Sam?
Anaïs: He actually took a screenshot of the video, posted it on my Facebook wall and wrote "Anaïs, this is your doppelgänger." I was like whaaaaat! He completely forgot that I was adopted. He says that if he had remembered that he would have thought twice before putting that on Facebook, but he didn't. I was obviously reallysurprised. But I didn't imagine that she was my twin. The skit was set in a high school and that made me think she was a little bit younger. I thought she could be a younger half-sister.
Sam, what did you think when you got a message from this stranger who looked just like you?
Sam: Oh my god, I thought she was a crazy person at first. Then I kept reading and I thought she must be really cool because she made a Lindsay Lohan reference. (She said, "Not to be too Lindsay Lohan, but let me know what you think.") In the pit of my stomach I probably believed that it was true, that we probably were twins.
What were the first things you wanted to know about each other?
Sam: We just stared at each other over Skype for a really long time, comparing our teeth, our ears, our noses, our eyebrows. Later we spoke about what we do, whether we grew up with siblings or not and what our parents are like.
Did you discover any really crazy coincidences?
Sam: We have the same laugh which is super creepy. We'll go and get our nails done on the same day. We'll get our hair cut on the same day. We bite our nails the same way. We hate bell peppers and love beets.
Anaïs, in the movie, you're just graduating from Central Saint Martins and Sam, you're an actress. Do you think it's a coincidence that you're both in creative industries?
Anaïs: I'm working as an accessories designer for a company now and I'm going to start my own line in December. I don't think it's luck that we've both been attracted to these fields - I think it's because our brains are basically built the same.
How has discovering that you have a twin changed the way you think about yourselves?
Sam: It's a confidence booster in a way. You know that you're never alone and there's someone out there like you. Growing up as a girl you often think Oh, I don't look like them, is that okay? It's really, really great to see someone exactly like you. It's a comforting feeling.
Anaïs: It's the same for me. It helps with confidence. I was raised as an only child and now having [Sam's family], having brothers and cousins, and new parents, makes me so happy.
Anaïs, in the movie you mention that you always felt lonely as a child and you didn't understand why. Do you think that on some level you knew you had a sibling?
Anaïs: It's so hard to know if it was related to not having any siblings or to missing Sam. I just feel good now, because I have both.
Has making the film helped you process things?
Sam: It's been quite therapeutic, because we were forced to ask ourselves questions that we wouldn't have otherwise. And I asked my mom and dad questions that I never had before, like, "Why was I adopted?"
Had either of you explored your backgrounds before you found out about each other?
Anaïs: I've had my papers since I was a baby. So, I thought I knew the story. I'd also gone back to Korea with my parents. But now, looking back, I can see it wasn't exactly accurate. And about six months before we contacted each other, Sam had gone back to Korea with her mom. She found her adoption files there, but they said nothing about a sibling or a twin sister.
Can you tell me about the charity you guys just started?
Sam: It's called the Kindred Foundation for Adoption. It's based in California, and we aim to be the ultimate resource for adoption - the first stop for anyone in the greater adoption community. People can come to us and we can point them to someone who specializes in what they're looking for.
What else has happened since the end of the movie?
Sam: I'm in LA still and Anaïs is in Paris. But we see each other every two or three months.
Anaïs: We'd love to live in the same country but there are visas and things. Maybe some day, for work reasons, we might. You never know what life will bring.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Sam Evans-Butler