Our Magic: Documentary about magic, by magicians
Our Magic is a feature documentary that pays homage to an ancient and mostly underground performing art, piercing through the thick layer of commonly held stereotypes. By Ferdinando Buscema
What is a magician? For most of the people a magician is a weird dude, wearing some odd attire with pathetic lapel pins or a clownish tie, possibly able to make balloon animals, trying to look cool and interesting with some wacky prop or a cheesy joke. Frequently endowed with an hypertrophic ego and cocky attitude, the archetypical stereotype of the magician looks like the G.O.B. character from the TV series Arrested Development. Sad but true, the perception of a magician in most people's mind is surrounded by an aura of triviality.
Whatever the state of affairs, there is more to magic than meets the eye. As living legend mentalist Max Maven states, with typical razor-sharp wit: "The image of the magician, sadly, is for most of the public a cliché, that involves something nice for children. Judging magic through that filter is like judging music solely based on how people sing in the shower."
Finally, a much needed breath of fresh air: Our Magic is a feature documentary that duly pays homage to an ancient and mostly underground performing art, piercing through the thick layer of commonly held stereotypes. Thirty of the most respected thinkers, performers and creators in magic share their views about the art of conjuring, stage magic and prestidigitation. The result is a prismatic collage of voices, whose richness and variety offer the general public a unique inside experience of what still remains a most fascinating performing art and secretive community.
First things first, Our Magic tries to address the meaning of magic itself, a pretty elusive and slippery notion. When we talk about magic we are loosely referring to some sort of concoction of trickery, lies, deceits, artifice, ruse and subterfuges. Desirable effects of such weird brew are - as it were - magical: an enjoyable sense of wonder and astonishment, the experiences of mystery and not-knowing, a non-threatening sense of uncertainty and doubt or having one's model of reality playfully warped. According to Las Vegas headliner comedy-magician Mac King magic often means "I fooled you, bitch!"... but the challenge is to make that experience enjoyable, amusing and not mean-spirited.
But why would anyone like to be fooled and deceived? Having our senses duped and our mental schemata twisted, brings us to a place where our rational mind and our feelings short-circuit. If it is done artfully and professionally (and those are big ifs), the result is a weird kind of thrill - which partly calls to our primal childlike sense of wonder, but often requires the intellectual maturity of an adult to effect us most powerfully.
A recurring theme of Our Magic is how crucial it is to experience magic live. There's no substitute for the live engagement that magic can offer: no TV or YouTube clips will ever be able to provide the multi-sensory depth of a direct encounter with magic (whatever the fans of special-effects-doped magic stars like Chris Angel and Dynamo might think). This is one of the reason why there are no tricks in Our Magic. However, the movie is indeed filled with real secrets!
The director, R. Paul Wilson (who is also a well known and accomplished international magician and consultant) crafted a very fine and thoroughly entertaining movie, the ultimate documentary about the art of conjuring and what it means to be a wonder-worker today. After watching Our Magic you'll get a renewed appreciation of the complexities, the craftmanship, and the aesthetic value of such a peculiar performing art, leaving you wanting to go out search for a fix of good magic.
As a magician myself, I felt a renewed love for my craft, and I guess most magicians (professionals or otherwise) will not remain untouched by the deep chords played.
I also believe that Our Magic provides an encouraging message for those who would like to venture into the world of performing magic, lured by the fascination of being able to do the impossible. In the words of Jack Delvin: Magic is a closed door, but it is not locked.
Finally, for the intellectually curious, Our Magic is gourmet food-for-thought, reframing magic as an ever-changing and fundamental cultural category, brimming with endless fascination that no MRI scan will ever be able to pin-point.
Waiting for Our Magic to be released soon (and I deeply thank my friend Paul Wilson for allowing me a sneak preview of it!) you can enjoy the trailer of this gem of a movie.
In the latest episode of Scam Nation, magician Nate Staniforth went to Anamosa State Penitentiary in Iowa to perform magic for the inmates. Image: YouTube
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