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Reflections Of FISM 2015


FISM 2015A Review by Michael Perovich

I’m sure everyone is pretty much over FISM at this point yet I’m compelled to offer a few comments on reflection.


Rimini is a beautiful seaside resort town. It really is.

FISM is much like any other large magic organization conference in that it consists of contests, lectures, professional shows, and a banquet. In my view it is the contests that set FISM apart and allow it to justly claim the winners to be the world champions of magic.

I saw every single one of the stage contestants perform. These are wonderful, simply wonderful. For the most part they consist of two general types: Asian and European. There are Americans that perform as well and several have won over the years. But typically they fail to fall within the norm of the complexity and overall sophistication exhibited by other countries.

The Asian acts exhibit incredible technical virtuosity. The skill level is incredible. They often center around modern music, forlorn love, and dazzling productions, vanishes and transformations. Very often the routines use balls and cards and over the last several FISMs there has come to be a sameness in these manipulations although other items are also frequently used. Interestingly, there seems to be several acts whose sleight of hand is augmented by complex mechanical adjuncts. Origami birds fold and unfold of their own accord, flower pedals come together to form a flower, letters open and close, smoke mysteriously appears from the magicians hands, etc. Many of the productions seem to rely on black art and the performers are typically dressed wholly in black. Just how these work I don’t know but I see very few, if any, American acts where the steels and vanishes are anywhere near as baffling.

There are also what I term cultural acts and I’ve seen several of these performed by Asian women. Often these are performed in native costumes of centuries past with beautiful backdrops of willows, streams and floral scenes.

The European acts often focus on some theme of a universal nature. A man in a subway, someone trapped in the rain, a student at his desk, all encountering surrealistic phenomena. There are also mental and comedy acts, the metal acts straying the furthest from this format. Mental acts seem to drag especially when seen in the context of the other performances. They aren’t intrinsically bad, they just often seem out of place. Comedy doesn’t often translate across the diverse language and culture of the other acts, but in this FISM I felt there were a number of excellent comedy magicians although they don’t take the format Americans are familiar with, i.e. hard sell comedy club routines.

For the most part I had never seen any of these acts before. They seem designed specifically for FISM, often represent large cash investments, perhaps are subsidized by host governments and often seem unsuitable for venues in the US. Not absolutely true of course but often they would seem of limited appeal to the average American audience. After a few contest cycles, when their high water mark has been reached, they seem to vanish from the scene, never to be viewed again.

All this makes FISM both unique and wonderful. I seldom see a convention show or any magic show in the United States where I am not familiar with several, if not, most of the acts. With FISM it is just the opposite. Hour after hour of beautiful, one of a kind acts that are both technically exquisite and just plain different from anything you’ve ever seen. I can’t describe just how pleasing an experience this is and it is the main reason I have attended three out of the last four FISMs.

This FISM was advertised as “The Best FISM Ever.” While such labeling would seem to be tempting the fates, I can see why the producers felt this way. The opening Gala was excellent with Silvan performing both illusions and card manipulations, followed by Max Maven, Finn Jon, Xavier Mortimer, Paul Daniels, YU Ho Jin and the very theatrical Magus Utopia.

The “Ultra Lecture” had Andy Gladden, Joshua Jay, David Williamson, Guy Hollingsworth, Roberto Giobbi, Shawn Farquhar, Paul Daniels and others. The Close up Gala featured Miguel Angel Gea, Dani Da Ortiz, Christian Engblom, Guy Hollingsworth, David Williamson, Eugene Burger and Armando Lucero and was hosted by David Stone. Less successful were the Misterious East and World of Illusionism shows although they had their highpoints and featured several sound acts. Perhaps I was just too sleepy to appreciate them. The Winners Gala in which the winners of the various sub categories compete for the two Titles of World Champion (stage and close up) provided an excellent evening of magic entertainment. I couldn’t argue with the winners and enjoyed seeing both the stage acts I’d seen and some of the closeup and parlor acts I’d missed.

I also saw Juan Tamariz’ one-man show, Luis De Matos’ wonderful floating ball lecture, interviews with Silvan and Paul Daniels, and plenty of other stuff including getting to meet Roberto Giobbi, which was the highlight of the convention for me. BTW, Luis De Matos seemed to be everywhere lecturing, introducing, interviewing and performing.
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I feel this assemblage of talent is hard to argue with as being first rate. In fact, I really don’t see how you could.

Despite various issues that arose, the theater was beautiful. Because thousands of magicians attend these FISM events and because the nature of many of the acts don’t play well at a distance, finding a suitable venue is always a challenge. Here a modern convention center was used and a stage and seating constructed. High tech computer generated backdrops were used, numerous large banks of lights were installed and a very large motorized curtain was provided. While all this had pluses and minuses in its utilitarian function, it appeared neither slap dash or inexpensive.

The facility for the close up performances (and I saw several of those) provided steeply terraced seating for several hundred and was as good for this purpose as any I’ve seen.

The White Dinner was a joyful and eminently pleasant event.

The lecture rooms were fine.

And as we all know, there were problems. The dreams of a triumphant event for FISM Italy 2015 President Walter Rolfo and FISM International President Domenico Dante were dashed as there was a complete collapse of assigned seating (this had it’s own trickle down set of problems as confrontations arose among those who hadn’t gotten the new “sit anywhere” rules and the jockeying for seating made for unpleasant interactions). The curtain malfunctioned and the lighting, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to present the acts in the best light for the live audience present.

So how much of a difference did all these issues make? Not much, really. I saw all the acts I wanted to in a modern facility. I saw lectures and one man shows and cultural events and interviews and met old friends. I never ended up with a seat that was worse than the one I had been originally assigned, the curtain was eventually fixed after having been dealt with intermediately, and the lighting seemed greatly improved by the end of the week. I got what I came for and found it quite satisfactory.

The big negative, the big turn off, the big detraction from a satisfying time for me was the audience reaction. From what I gather the FISM hierarchy is moving forward with partnerships with television production companies to augment their income and to disperse what is seen as unique, artistic magic to a broader spectrum of people. I assume there is support for this amongst FISM members in general or there wouldn’t be a continuity of principle on this issue.

Obviously, many who attend FISM don’t agree with this tact (primarily among the European members from what I could see) and they won’t let go of their displeasure. There was booing, catcalls, and foot stopping in Stockholm on this same subject. This doesn’t seem to be casual snarkyness but really mean spirited and heated objection. They seem borderline violent.

By the end of things both Messers Rolfo and Dante had taken on a dazed, stunned look. The heartless audience kept pouring it on. As each of the 8 awards and runners up were announced (inexplicably only in Italian), Walter and Domineco would walk out holding the trophy with sickly smiles on their faces. And each time they would be roundly booed. Enough already. We get it. You are unhappy for some semi obscure reason that booing doesn’t seem to be solving. As my friend Boris Buchner suggested, it would have made more sense for the two of them to just stay on stage rather than leave and comeback for each award to a new chorus of boos. But no one thought of that at the time.

Max made an impassioned speech that righted things to the extent that could be done. At the end of the day this FISM had many things to recommend it. The rude audience members weren’t among them.

Or, as Jules Lenier once told me about sex. Even the worst is pretty good. And this FISM wasn’t the worst of anything.

Michael PerovichMichael Perovich is a Member of Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle) and provides news for The Society of American Magicians, Assembly 22 and The S.A.M. Hall of Fame

  1. Thank you for the unbiased report. I felt I got a good sense of things. Keep the reviews, etc. coming.

  2. “The best FISM ever” is really something one should never say before. But Walter Rolfo did his best. He wanted the best for FISM and for the audience. It was a really good FISM with some unfortunate circumstances. Looking forward to the next FISM in Busan.

  3. Kevin Beirne says:

    The booing was downright shameful and really took away from my first experience of FISM. I went in assuming we were all magician friends and I heard some of the most ignorant, meant spirited complaints about some of the most respectable people there.

    That being said it was an immense event (I saw a reasonable balance of lectures, closeup and stage with a slight preference for the lectures) and everything I saw was top notch or very close.

    Some people complained about the delays but of an event this size I found it neither surprising or upsetting. It may also be a cultural thing however where some people are more likely to be upset by lateness, I’m Irish so late is par for the course 😛
    The only time this was an issue was when a translator arrived so late to a lecture he prevented everyone in the room from seeing the one after. This would have been forgiven had he been apologetic and engaged in the lecture when he arrived. Instead he gave a half hearted, disinterested translation and although I can’t be sure I’m pretty sure he didn’t bother to translate sections of the lecture that I believed to be vital details.

    Worth mentioning that we broke the Guinness world record for most magicians in a magic show. Stayed up all night and it was well worth it.

    Highlight of the event for me was hearing the wise words of David Berglas and watch him perform a fantastic and well suited version of one of his renowned mathematical mysteries that was as wonderful as it was baffling.

    The acts were unfathomably brilliant and the kindness from all the lecturers was wonderful. I made tons of friends and would recommend any magicians, young or old, new or experienced to magic to come on down and experience it. Bring on Finland!

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