Sometime between 8 p.m. on July 1st and 7 a.m. on July 3rd, 2003, Doug Bruce lost himself. That morning, riding alone on a New York City subway headed to Coney Island, he could not remember his name, where he worked, who his friends were, or how much money he had in his bank account. He was a man who lost his memory.
This is the amazing true documentary of a man who, for some unknown medical reason, suddenly found himself completely unaware of anything before that fateful ride to Coney Island. This is Unknown White Male, a film by Rupert Murray, produced by Beadie Finzi, and distributed by Wellspring. If you didn’t know, Wellspring has a great history of supporting the most thought provoking, inspired films of our time, and they should be applauded for their work.
I love documentaries, and out the hundreds that I have had the pleasure of watching, this one blew me out of the water. Days later I am still pondering the events of Doug’s life and the enormity of the situation he was dropped into. This documentary is a must see; I can’t state it any simpler. I have never left a film with so many questions about life and the pursuit of happiness than when I finished watching this one.
From the opening, we are thrown into a very confusing situation. The film maker, Rupert Murray, a friend of Doug’s, catches up with him just days after the event. We see a confused and suspicious man who has no trust of anyone or anything. I have to say that Rupert does an unbelievable job at creating an environment where we, the viewers, feel the confusion that Doug is dealing with. We watch as Doug searches for any clues as to his past, all the while trying to come to grips with the tragic event that has robbed him of so much.
The film smartly includes medical professionals who discuss memory, and provide their expert analysis about what could have happened. But with the mystery that is the human brain, all anyone can do is make educated guesses. This leaves Doug with nothing to go forward with. Ultimately, he is alone, and unaided through his recovery. The odd thing is, though, is that Doug’s memory loss is not the most interesting part of this story. The real story of Unknown White Male comes in the unforeseen questions such an event creates.
If you, like Doug, were to lose all of your memories, who would you be? Would you have the same personality, or would a new one be created? Would you go back to the job you had, or would your real purpose emerge? Would you even like the people who were your best friends before all of this happened? Most of all, would you even want to remember your past, or would you want to start fresh? They’re all questions Doug faces as he tries to separate what was from what is and we are there for every moment.
There are numerous parts in Unknown White Male that will have you at a loss for words. I had to pause the DVD player several times because I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing. There were funny moments, like when Doug sees the beach for the first time and as he is headed for the ocean, wonders if he ever knew how to swim. There are poignant moments as we watch Doug meet his father and sister. And there are sad moments when Doug’s friends wonder if they will even carry on their relationships with him after losing fifteen years of memories. It is real, it is tragic, and it is moving.
I say to all of you reading this, do yourself a favor and go see this documentary. And if you’ve never seen a documentary, this would be a great place to start. If you would like to get a glimpse into the film, and watch a few snippets, please check out their