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Arts & Culture

INDEPENDENT LENS: An Honest Liar

Magician, Escape Artist, and Skeptic, James "The Amazing" Randi.
Courtesy of Justin Weinstein, Tyler Measom
Magician, Escape Artist, and Skeptic, James "The Amazing" Randi.

Airs Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

For the last half-century, James “The Amazing” Randi has entertained millions of people around the world with his remarkable feats of magic, escape, and trickery.

But when he saw faith healers, fortunetellers, and psychics using his beloved magician’s tricks to steal money from innocent people and destroy lives, he dedicated his life to exposing frauds, using the wit and style of the great showman that he is.

The award-winning film, “An Honest Liar,” is part detective story, part biography, and a bit of a magic act itself.

A self-described liar, cheat, and charlatan, Randi embarked on a mission for truth by perpetrating a series of unparalleled investigations and elaborate hoaxes.

These grand schemes fooled scientists, the media, and a gullible public, but always with a deeper goal of demonstrating the importance of evidence and the dangers of magical thinking.

In one of these acts, he transformed his partner, José Alvarez, into a fake guru named “Carlos” to show how easily people can be fooled. His work exposing faith healers won him a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 1987.

James Randi and his partner, the artist José Alvarez.
Courtesy of Tyler Measom, Justin Weinstein
James Randi and his partner, the artist José Alvarez.

When dealing with a master deceiver, the truth can often be hard to find.

A sudden and shocking truth in Randi’s personal life is brought to light when the tale of multiple identities takes an unexpected and potentially devastating turn.

And Randi – who spent his life exposing deception – may have either perpetrated another grand hoax or become the victim of a very personal one.

Randi during one of his many appearances on the JOHNNY CARSON SHOW.
Courtesy of Carson Entertainment Group
Randi during one of his many appearances on the JOHNNY CARSON SHOW.

A film about the many faces of deception that’s full of unexpected twists and turns, “An Honest Liar” is told through interviews with Randi, vintage footage of his countless TV appearances, and interviews with Adam Savage, Penn & Teller, Bill Nye, Uri Geller (who Randi spent years debunking), Alice Cooper and many others.

Penn and Teller on The Amazing Randi!
Alice Cooper on James Randi

This film is no longer available to stream on demand.

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James "The Amazing" Randi, escape artist.
Courtesy of James Randi
James "The Amazing" Randi, escape artist.

CREDITS:

A film by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom. Written by Justin Weinstein, Greg O’Toole and Tyler Measom. Produced and Directed by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom. Executive Producers: Nick Fraser, Greg Henry, Gill Holland, Stephanie Levy, Gary Schermerhorn, David Shadrack Smith, Barry Sonnenfeld and Vijay Vaidyanathan. Music by Joel Goodman. Edited by Greg O’Toole.