Screened as part of NZIFF 2019

The Amazing Johnathan Documentary 2019

Directed by Ben Berman Incredibly Strange

In the world of magic, nothing is what it seems as a terminally ill magician prepares for his swansong – and the ultimate trick on the maker of this bizarre documentary.

USA In English
90 minutes DCP



Miranda Bailey
Ben Berman
Russell Wayne Groves
Amanda Marshall
Jacob Perlin


Dan Adlerstein
Ben Berman


Scott Evans
Ben Berman


Zack Wright


Johnathan Szeles


Sundance 2019


“It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.” Kevin Costner’s famous line from JFK is the perfect way to describe the meta-hijinks that unfold in this unbelievably strange documentary.

John Szeles is a popular comic magician who rose through the ranks to book a headline spot in Vegas. You’ll know his act if you’ve watched a lot of comedy shows – he’s the prop guy whose lowbrow routines (involving spikes through the tongue or eating doves) are delivered with unlikely infectious energy.

Diagnosed with a rare heart condition, the prognosis not good, Szeles is forced into retirement, and director Ben Berman gains unfettered access to his days wandering his Las Vegas mansion beside his ever-patient wife Anastasia. If the disease doesn’t kill him, the boredom and meth will. With what little gas he has left in the tank, Szeles decides to stage the greatest comeback tour of all time.

But the man who survived decades of extreme living has a bombshell to drop. Things quickly turn surreal for the filmmaker as The Amazing Johnathan, the performer, and The Amazing Johnathan Documentary spin out of control. When reality starts to blur, we’re left to wonder what final trick he has in store for us. — AT

“Prepare to be fooled, thrilled and surprised with a new classic… An eccentric, wild and gripping goose chase of a film, all the jesters at the center of [The Amazing Johnathan Documentary] are fascinating… This unbelievable film and its rumination of trust and a rumination on the nature of non-fiction filmmaking, is nothing short of amazing.” — Jordan Ruimy, The Playlist