Front Row at the Movies
"An Honest Liar" Presents Magical Documentary
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Having been an amateur magician (when I was in the third grade), I’ve always been a fan of Harry Houdini, The Amazing Dunninger, The Great Blackstone, and The Amazing Randi.
Now a bearded old man, James Randi (né Randall James Hamilton Zwinge) has performed around the world as a stage magician and a Houdini-inspired escape artist. Describing himself as "an honest liar," he remains a world-renowned enemy of deception.
Up to his retirement at age 60, he devoted much of his energy to debunking what he calls "woo-woo" (paranormal, spiritualist, occult, and the supernatural).
Famously, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) offers a One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal or supernatural ability. To date, no one has claimed the prize.
But this documentary about James Randi has some surprising twists. Turns out, he had a long-time personal relationship with José Alvarez. But Alvarez himself was living a lie. When arrested, Randi’s young partner confessed that his real name was Deyvi Orangel Peña and that he came to the U.S. on a two-year student visa after fleeing persecution in Venezuela. Eventually Alvarez was released. The couple was married in 2013. Randi and Peña now live in Plantation, Florida.
Directed and produced by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom, "An Honest Liar" posits the question "whether Randi was the deceiver or the deceived." The film currently is playing at Tropic Cinema.
As for me, I still admire magicians, those honest liars who make us look at the world in a different way, teaching us that anyone can be fooled by a skillful prevaricator.