While AFI DOCS has taken steps to position itself as more D.C.-centric and policy-oriented—adding venues inside city limits, hosting a “policy engagement” workshop at the Capitol building—-this year’s festivalgoers didn’t seem to notice. The AFI DOCS Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Short went to An Honest Liar and Beyond Recognition: The Incredible Story of a Face Transplant respectively, neither of which can claim any explicit political implications.
The subject of An Honest Liar, James “The Amazing” Randi (pictured), is a lifelong magician and escape artist who uses his platform to expose the bogus claims of predatory tricksters like psychics and pseudoscientists (the film’s website calls him an “enemy of deception”). Directed by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom, An Honest Liar looks at how, despite his crusade against the likes of faith healers and snake-oil salesmen, Randi deceived his own followers, too.
Beyond Recognition was one of five shorts in a “Face the Music” series (Tricia Olszewski called it the “most riveting” of the group in her City Paper review). Sam Thonis‘ film tells the story of 44-year-old Carmen Tarleton, a woman who’s seeking a full-face transplant after her ex-husband attacks her with lye, leaving her body covered in chemical burns. She eventually meets the daughter of the organ donor whose face she received, resulting in a deep friendship that neither expected.