The audience awards at this year’s AFI DOCS went to two films that cover vastly different subjects, yet, at the the same time share the same, core premise.
Both “An Honest Liar” and “Beyond Recognition: The Incredible Story of a Face Transplant” — this year’s audience award winners for Best Feature and Best Short, respectively — share a contemplative concern for notions of appearance.
“An Honest Liar” follows a passionate illusionist names James “The Amazing” Randi. As a magician, Randi not only performs, but also has made it his life’s mission to expose fraudulent healers and psychics who use magic tricks to con people out of money. “Beyond Recognition,” on the other hand, chronicles the journey of a burn victim who elects to undergo experimental face transplant surgery.
Co-directed by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom, “An Honest Liar” premiered at Tribeca earlier this year. Sam Thonis’ “Beyond Recognition” made its debut at AFI DOCS and indicates a major departure in genre for Thonis, whose credits up to this point, are mostly comedy related.
This year’s AFI DOCS was attended by over 100 filmmakers, including acclaimed documentarians Alex Gibney and Joe Berlinger. Senators Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ed Markey also made appearances over the course of the festival, which takes place just in the Washington D.C. and is sometimes billed as a forum where filmmakers and policymakers might engage in conversation.