Treading the same ground as the sweet and charming SPELLBOUND (a title which would have served this film just as well), MAKE BELIEVE follows the fates of a number of participants in the Teen World Championship of Magic. We meet the pretty blonde from California, the 19 year old from the Midwest making his last crack at the award, the Japanese youth who has crafted his own brand of magic from the natural materials available to him.
What’s unique is that all of the participants are already vetted, requiring a formal invitation in order to participate. Even the South African contingent, who lacked some of the more refined skills of their fellow participants and stretching what a “magic” performance is thought to be, offered an exuberant and athletic presentation that made up for other shortcomings.
Tweel and his editors do a good job is allowing us real insight into the characters of these kids. While the focus sometimes is allowed to drift, there’s an infectiousness to the whole event (amplified by the international settings and the final performances in Vegas) that shines through. In the end, this is more a doc about this group of kids rather than an overview of the event itself, and the film’s all the more pleasing for that fact. A delightful glimpse into this little niche of talented teens, MAKE BELIEVE is a warm, funny, touching documentary.