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“Nobody sees the way I see,” card mechanic Richard Turner says in a voiceover while the Dallas International Film Festival audience weeps during Dealt. When you discover in the first 10 minutes of the film that the documentary’s subject (Turner) is blind, it gives his aforementioned quote new context and depth. It’s not pertaining to visual sight, but how one lives. While many of us would regress and call blindness a limitation, Turner finds it as a source of inspiration and a reason to push boundaries.
Earlier, I used the phrase “card mechanic” unironically. This is an expression Turner himself uses to describe his sleight-of-hand card “magic.” While his mind-mystifying card movements could be described as magic, he’s simply manipulating what’s already present in a standard deck of cards and expertly counting in his head while giving an extravagant presentation with his hands to an audience. It’s absolutely riveting, but the over-the-top “magic” part you normally think of in this act (like a card disappearing/reappearing somewhere) isn’t present. The simplicity behind it is all the more impressive when seeing Turner in action, of which Dealt provides a plethora.
We learn in Dealt that when Turner began losing his vision in his childhood, he picked up a deck of cards and learned to perform with them after the fact. He also rigorously studied martial arts and earned several degrees of a black belt. Seeing his accomplishments come to fruition on the big screen really makes one question if they’re doing enough living. (Spoilers: we’re probably not.)
Aside from the life-affirming messages Turner and his story delivers, director Luke Korem makes a serious effort to have Dealt come off as cinematic as possible. He achieves this to great success. From the way Turner’s table performances are captured to quieter moments like Turner walking with his son Asa, Korem captures it in a way that’s highly visually engaging.
Even if documentaries don’t normally appeal to you, I’d strongly advise you go out of your way to catch Dealt when it hits theaters later this year. There are seldom slow moments and there might be a seemingly-random jump to one year later in the final act of the film, but Dealt‘s themes and witnessing the larger-than-life (and hilarious) character of Richard Turner in action is something to behold. It won the DIFF 2017 Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature for a reason.