Film Reviews

REVIEW: An Honest Liar

Hot Docs 2014

An Honest Liar
USA, 91 min.
Directed by Justin Weinstein, Tyler Measom
Programme: World Showcase (International Premiere)

What makes an honest liar, this documentary says, is the difference between using deception to conceal the truth—or reveal the truth. An Honest Liar takes the perspective of renowned magician James “The Amazing” Randi to reveal that it is much easier to convince people of what they want to believe than it is to convince them of what is factually correct. This film by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom is an absorbing account that shows the cards lying within the sleeves of some master tricksters as Randi explains how to expose certain aspects of hocus pocus as malarkey. Randi remains a firm advocate for the escapist enchantment of magic, though, and An Honest Liar deftly draws the line between entertainment and exploitation.

Randi joins a cast of fellow magicians and collaborators from his past as An Honest Liar details how he harnessed his own passion for magic into exposing those who abused the power of the imagination for a confidence game. He tells how he spotted the mark of shady healers, sinful preachers, and false prophets. Some of his tactics are compelling, while others—including an elaborate infiltration of a university study on psychic powers—receive understandable charges of unethical practice. Alternatively, the film remains objective by framing Randi’s story within the elaborate deception that marks his own life and consequently shows the innate fallibility that lies within each human being.

An Honest Liar weaves these accounts with an expert flair for captivating storytelling. The film feels like an enchanting magic act with its web of lies, cheats, and reveals. An Honest Liar leaves one doubting the power of so-called-mystics, but it successfully conjures the magic of movies.

Screenings:
Hart House Theatre
Wed, April 30, 9:15 PM

TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thurs, May 1, 7:00 PM

TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sat, May 3, 6:30 PM

Visit POV’s Hot Docs Hub for more reviews and features on the 2014 festival.