Film: Make Believe
Watch it at: Los Angeles Film Festival, Saturday 6/26 @ 5:00pm, Regal Cinemas LA Live, 1000 West Olympic Boulevard
A massive oil spill is destroying the environment. The U.S. just fired one of the guys in charge of the war it’s fighting. Women are still using sporting events as an excuse to wear very little clothing. So why, why, why should we care about some kids and their magic tricks?
We all had friends who did magic tricks, and I–despite being way uncool myself (stuttered, wore big glasses etc) — despised them. First, the ones I knew were all disheveled and sometimes drooled. Then there’s picking cards. I hated picking cards because I knew that somehow, by some hell-spawned pact with Satan, they knew; and even if I forgot, they still knew it was a three of clubs. For some reason, I couldn’t handle that. So while everyone would “ooh” and “ahh,” I would “meh.” Move on. It felt good, purging to my 12-year-old ego.
A decade later, reading the synopsis for Make Believe, I thought to myself: well well. Look who’s come back to play. I chuckled. I stroked my cat, slowly.
It’s a simple plot. Every year Las Vegas hosts the World Magic Seminar, where a popular vote determines the Teen World Champion. It’s the summer Olympics to Michael Phelps, the Pokemon tournament to Ash Ketchum, the World Cup to the world (minus the U.S.). It’s so competitive, yearning magicians frequently take time off from school and college to prepare. Director J. Clay Tweel films six contestants (including two from South Africa and one from Japan (!) more on him later) for over a year. The whole thing would seem pretty mundane to us non-magical folk, except for one simple thing: these kids love magic.
You know how someone can love something so much (swimming, soccer, pokemon etc) that you can’t help but take note? Well, I kind of love magic now too. And I love Hiroki Hana, the film’s card-throwing, kabuki-mask-wearing magician contestant from Kitayama, Japan. There’s a scene where Hana stands atop a classic, karate-master-locale hill in Japan, perfect 360 degree fans of playing cards splayed in each hand, where I realized, I was so wrong about these losers. I mean, magicians.
Hiroki Hana, shiny in real life too. Photo courtesy of Hiroki Hana
So it didn’t help my guilt when, after the screening, teen magician Derek McKee waxed poetic about performing for friends: “They wouldn’t care. I’d bam ‘em, and they’re like “so.”"
“And it took me two years to [be able to] do that.”
Now, I can’t in good conscience take one movie and use it to justify doing something so broad as to “follow your passions.” What if your passion happens to be Bud Light Lime? Yet, after watching Make Believe, it’s hard not to root for these kids and their obsessive, sometimes-strange pursuit of their dreams. Those people who said you can be whatever you want to be, well they were right — every now and then.
Now let’s all take a deep breath, and go back to studying for law school.
The cast and director of Make Believe after a screening at the LA Film Festival