In the Spring of 2015, a man randomly met a theater technician on a bus in Antwerp. Claiming to be the famous American film/theater maker Zachary Oberzan, the man was soon introduced to the senior staff of deSingel Internationale Kunstcampus, where he promised to create a new work using them as actors and their theater as the location. After a week of rehearsals, the staff grew suspicious, the man was revealed as an imposter, and was arrested by Belgian police for fraud. Renowned Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami read about this minor incident, and deeply intrigued, filmed the trial and re-constructed the events leading up to it. What we discover is the very complex story of a man torn by profound issues of identity, frustration, and artistic creation that spill over into our own lives, as we ourselves struggle with what role each of us are to play in the world. “The Great Pretender” is Oberzan’s latest filmic performance hybrid, combining a feature film, live theater, and live reconstructions of Elvis Presley concerts.
“Oberzan’s project does not resemble anything else…Very funny, very sad, very strange and very serious…An extremely impressive performance–not least in the level of detail when he shows his stage personality Elvis/Oberzan in various stages of barbiturate-intoxication, from the euphoric to absolutely helpless.”–ADRESSAVISEN, Norway
“Oberzan throws a probing and uncomfortable glance at the exclusionary mechanisms and nervousness of the art scene…[An] even more radical approach to the topic than Danish dogma-directors…What gives the film, and secondary stories such a paradoxical authentic atmosphere, is [Oberzan’s] style of something naïve or non-calculated…What makes “The Great Pretender” so human and gripping is a self-examination affecting far more than himself.”–KLASSEKAMPEN, Norway
“[Avant-garde] theater distances, showing us constantly how absurd we are, how absurd everything is. Zachary Oberzan will always do something else. Even when everything is at its most absurd, he will come closer. Where [experimental theater] presents distanced comedy, Oberzan digs to the roots of tragedy, even if we have to laugh to death.”–Present in Each Comma: “About Zachary Oberzan’s Unique Doubles,” Marius Emanuelsen
“Will the real Zachary Oberzan please stand up?”–AGENDA, Belgium
“I’m not sure if “The Great Pretender” is a performance that pretends to be a movie, or a movie that pretends to be a performance…Oberzan plays his “characters” brilliantly, both on camera and on stage. They are sometimes hilarious, or downcast and vulnerable individuals who barely manage to keep going. I am still unsure to what extent these characters are fictional.”–SCENEKUNST, Norway