|Index||4 reviews in total|
Just had the chance to see Make Believe yesterday at the Los Angeles
Film Festival where it was announced the film had one "Best
Documentary." I can see why. In a time where, more often than not,
documentary films are about making statements and arguments, Make
Believe allows us to meet a number of young magicians, each one of whom
has a fascinating story is a truly interesting character.
By focusing on youth who happen to be competing at the World Magic Teen Competition, rather than making it a documentary ABOUT the competition, the filmmakers let us take our time in meeting and interacting with each of the magicians. Offering no judgement while simultaneously avoiding any over-glorification, the right tone is hit perfectly to simply explore a world.
Yes, there's a slightly heavy handed message that magic lets the awkward communicate on a world stage...but they don't push it too hard. All in all, a great documentary. Let's hope I can see it on Netflix soon.
Make Believe could have easily been called Make Magic because this
entertaining documentary shows the preparations teens go through to
make it to the World Magic Show competition in Las Vegas for the title
of Teen World Champion.
Unlike most documentaries about young people such as spelling bee or ballet, this one relies less on the suffering and anxieties and more on the effort to develop unique acts, as original as possible while inevitably relying on some chestnuts which are the foundation of so much illusion.
The few young magicians chosen to be featured before the competition are almost all in the final eight, a tribute to the officials of the competition who could spy winners beforehand and to the filmmakers, who, like most excellent documentarians of these competitions, are uncanny at guessing finalists before they compete. Perhaps an analogy can be made to scouts for collegiate and professional teamsthey know their business.
The two strongest competitors, Krystin Lambert and Bill Koch, are confident and charismatic, she with an all American blond beauty and he with a big smile and an attitude whose mantra is "excellence." The latter is so dedicated to magic that he forsakes a music scholarship to work at his craft and compete in the world competition.
Make Believe features the two Meccas of magic, Las Vegas and LA's Magic Castle. Teens like Krystn regularly attend classes at the exclusive club, one of the most difficult to become a member in (I know because a former son-in-law is a longstanding member and a fine magician as well as a national radio personality).
The Magic Castle can easily serve as a metaphor for the difficulty of becoming a respected magician, a notion reinforced by this amiable and insightful documentary that shows most of all the long hours of creation, preparation, and practice going into being recognized as a magician.
This magic business is not so much about making believe as it is about making magic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have loved magic since I was a child. I would watch the old clips of
Houdini wondering how he was able to escape from what I believed to be
certain death! David Copperfield, Doug Henning, Penn & Teller, Lance
Burton, and even Harry Anderson (the judge from TV show Night Court). I
loved watching them all. I had no idea there was even a magic
competition for young magicians.
I really like how this documentary puts the young people front and center. The cast themselves mention all the magicians I knew and a few I had never even heard of. The teens are all wonderful and very dedicated. The personalities covered a wide emotional spectrum. The kids are shy, and introverted, but they are also confident, and hilarious. All of the emotions are right there at the surface (these are teens after all). The filmmakers went further though, and showed the true depth of feeling each person has. They all truly love what they are doing.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++Small spoiler here!! Skip it!!! WATCH OUT!! +++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
There was only one off-putting person/moment in this movie. I believe it is worth mentioning though. There is an older woman magician. Supposedly she was great back in the day. I didn't know who she was. She started off great, and seemed to be taking a couple of the performers under her wing. Then her attitude and input turned very coarse and inappropriate when speaking with the only girl performer. She advised the young girl, who I believe was 16 or 17 years old, to use her body to be more famous. The older woman used crude and very offensive language with her "advice". Did not like her at all.
++++++++++++++++++End of Spoiler+++++++++++++++++++
Overall, the entire movie is very real and touching. The film shows what can be done with a documentary using an honest approach with no agenda. If you love magic, or your children do, watch this movie. It shows how hard work, dedication, and practice truly have a huge impact. Even if you aren't a big fan of magic, I bet you will still find the heart of this movie to be genuine, and universal.
This movie kept me engaged from cover to cover. Twice, already. All of
the magician subjects grow before your eyes in their magic, confidence,
and identity. And their understanding of what it takes to achieve
mastery is breathtaking.
There is a punchy beat as the movie follows its subjects across continents. Kudos to Lucas Vidal for a terrific score. And to whoever created the story structure of bringing everyone to Vegas about a third into the movie, then back tracking. I felt indulged to be inside the Magic Castle during some of the scenes.
I hope this movie will inspire everyone who sees it. The child magician is latent in us all- these are kids who have worked hard to make it manifest.
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