Rediscovering the "Unknown White Male"

Doug Bruce
Doug Bruce completely lost his memory in 2002. He could not remember his family, friends, or home. His memory has not yet returned, but he has relearned his own personal history.
Image courtesy of Wellspring
Rupert Murray
Rupert Murray had known Doug Bruce for two decades, but he says he has had to re-establish his relationship with his friend, starting from scratch.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

Imagine this happening to you: You're riding a train, past houses, old buildings and bridges, in a city you don't recognize. You don't know who you are, and you have no identification.

That's exactly what happened in July 2002 to a man who later discovered his name is Doug Bruce.

Bruce checked himself into a hospital, where the nurses wrote "Unknown White Male" on his chart. Eventually, doctors diagnosed in Bruce a rare form of amnesia -- he had completely lost his memory.

In time, Doug Bruce learned he was in New York, but that he'd grown up in Africa and England, and he had friends dotted around the world.

Taxi Ride
Murray, right, took a taxi ride with Bruce on his first trip back to London since losing his memory. Bruce, who did not recognize landmarks he had once known well, such as Buckingham Palace, was amazed at the crowds at the Changing of the Guard.
Image courtesy of Wellspring

One of them was British filmmaker Rupert Murray, someone he'd known for 20 years, but now could not recall in the slightest. Murray asked Bruce if he could make a film about what was happening.

The result is a new documentary by Murray, "Unkown White Male," which opens in the Twin Cities this weekend.

Murray told Minnesota Public Radio's Euan Kerr it took a long time to come to terms with his friend's condition.

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