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Liar wins Mipdoc pitch contest

MIPDOC: A US documentary about a magician who has spent decades debunking ‘fraudulent’ paranormal and psychic claims has won the Mipdoc International Pitch competition.

The film An Honest Liar: The James Randi Story fought off competition from France, Norway, Spain, Belgium and Greece to take home the plaudits. The annual contest held here in Cannes sees six independent production companies pitch their latest projects to a panel of broadcasters and editors in the hope of securing more financing.

An Honest Liar comes from Salt Lake City-based Left Turn Films, with Tyler Measom and New York-based director Justin Weinstein (Being Elmo) coproducing and co-directing.

The feature traces the life of illusionist and escape artist Randi, who gave up performing in the 1960s to expose those he saw as abusing the magic profession by using it for financial gain, such as psychics and spiritualists. It follows him up to the present, “as he carefully orchestrates a hoax on an organisation,” said Measom.

“We were up against some phenomenal filmmakers with some phenomenal films but it was nice to pitch and present the film in its first public forum. It’s nice that our first forum came with a win,” he told C21 after the session.

The doc first came to light after Measom posted a trailer on Facebook, which clocked up two million page views in two weeks. “We had unsolicited donations on [crowdsourcing site] Kickstarter from as far as Brazil and in a month had 40% of the budget,” Measom said.

This year’s Mipdoc jury comprised the BBC’s Storyville strand editor Nick Fraser, Swedish pubcaster SVT commissioning editor Axel Arno and Dutch pubcaster VPRO’s head of documentaries Barbara Truyen.

The jury gave special commendation to Maiko’s Dance from Sant & Usant Documentary Films, a doc about a Japanese ballet dancer driven to success as a child by her mother but now suffering serious health consequences. The Norwegian film has already been picked up by NRK and Sweden’s SVT.

The other films were Homo Touristicus from France’s Roche Productions; The Afghan Warriors, from Spain’s Making DOC Producciones; The King of Mont Ventoux, from Belgium’s Associate Directors; and The New Plastic Road, from Greece’s Filmografik Productions.

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