I’m not a big fan of movies about magicians or mentalists, but I definitely appreciate the occasional documentary. Movies tend to distort the world of magic and though I can have fun with it every now and then, most often I can’t help but think, “That’s not how it is.” Recent documentaries on the other hand have done a great job introducing the public to the magic community. If you’re at all curious about the world of magicians, and looking for something to watch, consider these three recommendations.
“An Honest Liar” (2014): This documentary recounts the life of James Randi, also known as the Amazing Randi. He had a 70+ year career in magic, which included highlights like tricking the CIA into thinking his disciples had psychic powers, to revealing frauds on the Tonight Show, to publishing the long-running magazine The Skeptical Inquirer. I met Randi at the Magic Castle and have always appreciated his respect for the art and for truth. He devoted much of his career to debunking con artists who’ve used sleight of hand for nefarious, exploitative purposes and the film documents his efforts until it reveals a secret he has been holding for decades. It’s a touching story of a legendary figure in the magic world.
“Dealt” (2017): This short documentary is about Richard Turner, a world-class San Diego magician known for his expert skills in the area of card cheating. And he happens to be blind. Being a blind magician would be difficult, but out of all the areas of magic one could practice, card magic would certainly be the toughest, as you can’t feel the values of the cards (whereas you could distinguish different coins, for example, from each other). The documentary recounts his upbringing, his relationships, and his drive for mastery in all areas of life (a quick example: he also became a blackbelt in karate, after he went blind). It’s an inspiring story and well-worth watching.
“Magicians: Life in the Impossible” (2016): Having grown up performing at the Magic Castle and knowing so many Los Angeles magicians, I’m often friends with magicians featured on TV or in theatre shows. In the case of Magicians: Life in the Impossible, I knew three of the magicians featured. These magicians are all examples of quality performers trying to make a living full time as mentalists and magicians for hire in Los Angeles. When most people think of magicians and mentalists, they think of someone on TV or in Vegas, but the vast majority of us who perform full time are actually working at corporate and private events and this documentary offered a peek behind the curtain into that lifestyle. Check it out!