I’m pleased to report that the Masters of Magic series at Luminato has more than just stage and street performances by Juan Tamariz, Mac King, Max Maven and Bob Sheets. The Festival is also screening The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, a film by Ann Marie Fleming. I am honored to have played a bit part in both the making of the film, and its forthcoming screening at the Festival.
The film is about Ann Marie’s search for information about her great-grandfather, Long Tack Sam. Ann Marie describes Sam as, “The Devilishly Handsome Globe-Hopping Chinese Vaudevillian Magician and Acrobat”. And that he was.
I first met Ann Marie in 1997 when I was performing The Conjuror at the Royal Ontario Museum. She introduced herself as a friend of the filmmaker Ron Mann, a mutual acquaintance, and asked if I had ever heard the name “Long Tack Sam”. Much to her surprise, I had. She then showed me one Sam’s scrapbooks from “Scala”. I was able to put in her touch with many other magicians who helped her piece together the life of this remarkable performer. I then watched her over the course of the next few years assemble the story, and the film. Quite a journey! Although the film had its official premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2003, the actual world premiere took place a few days earlier, at 31 Faces North in Toronto, a gathering of magicians that I co-hosted with Magicana, and Allan Slaight. Several of the magicians featured in Ann Marie’s film were in attendance. It was a great evening.
Luminato is a curated Festival, that is, the programming is developed along lines envisioned by an artistic director, in this case, Chris Lorway. This year, Chris has tabled three broad themes: East/West, Artist Rights, and Divas. It was easy to suggest Ann Marie’s film be included because it deals with, in its own way, all three. You can see The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam for yourself – and at no charge – at the theatre at the National Film Board on June 20 at 2:30 PM.
I am also participating in a public form about rights in the arts. The forum, moderated by Chris Lorway, takes place at the Roots Store at 100 Bloor Street West on June 16 at 12:30 PM. I have always been interested in this topic and I believe that the history of magic as a performing art offers insight into the relationship between artists and creative works.
Coincidentally, I was recently sent a copy of Law and Magic, a collection of essays published by Carolina Academic Press, to review. One of the essays, “Secrets Revealed: Protecting Magicians’s Intellectual Property without Law” generated a lot of press, including from The Economist, prior to its publication in this book. The paper discusses, among other things, how the magic community has developed a set of informal norms and sanctions to protect their intellectual property.
I read the paper at a draft stage when the author, Jacob Loshin, was seeking comments. His notion, however, of how magicians protect their secrets, and their ability to do so, was completely off the mark. It still is. This is because he makes the classic mistake of assuming that, because he once dabbled in magic, and was a member of a magic society – a hobby club, really – that he has an insider’s understanding of the profession. He doesn’t. It certainly sounds good, however.
As for the third theme – Divas – need I say anything more?