An Honest Liar
— The Boston Globe
"not since Orson Welles's F is For Fake (1973) has there been a better examination of what makes a fraud, the power of illusion, the construction of a hoax, and the public's desire to be deceived."
Director: Justin Weinstein & Tyler Measom
Runtime: 90 mins
GENRES: Documentary, LGBT, Theater & Performing Arts, Biography
AN HONEST LIAR is a story of cons and deceptions enacted for both good and evil. The film follows the life of James "The Amazing" Randi, a world-renowned magician, escape artist, and master of deception who has entertained and educated the world for over 50 years.
His dazzling acts of mind reading and mentalism convinced people he had psychic powers, giving him the opportunity to use these skills to take advantage of people. Randi saw many others doing just that – he discovered faith healers, fortune-tellers, and psychics using his beloved mentalism and magic tricks – not to entertain, but to steal money and destroy lives.
Enraged by this, Randi decided to devote his life to protecting the public from these thieves. As a self-described “liar, cheat, and charlatan,” he would use his skills of deception for the public good. Over the years, he orchestrated elaborate hoaxes and famous investigations that would expose these charlatans and fakers for what they really were.
AN HONEST LIAR relives these twisted tales through interviews with many of the original participants, a wealth of rare, behind-the-scenes, and never-before-seen footage and archival materials. People appearing in the film include Penn & Teller, Adam Savage, Bill Nye, Alice Cooper as well as other figures from Randi’s life.
Yet the truth can be hard to find when dealing with a master deceiver. Only a few years ago at the age of 81, Randi came out of the closet as a gay man. He had been living with his partner, the artist Jose Alvarez (who played Carlos), for over 25 years.
Then, early one morning in September of 2011, the FBI surrounded Randi's home and took Jose away in handcuffs. He was charged identity fraud, a shocking discovery to all of Randi and Jose’s friends. It turned out that Jose, aka Carlos and Randi’s partner for 25 years, was not who he claimed to be. And Randi - who spent his life exposing deception – may have perpetrated another hoax or become the victim of a very personal one.
Through Randi’s life, the film looks at how deception can be used to many ends – some nefarious but others constructive. And when used by “an honest liar” like James Randi – deception can be used not only to conceal secrets, but also to reveal truths.