Dealt: A Card Mechanic's Success in the Face of Blindness

Dealt movie poster featuring Rick with a deck of cards fanned out in his hands with the words "Dealt. One of the world's greatest card magicians... is completely blind. SXSW Film Festival Winner 2017"

Dealt: A Card Mechanic's Success in the Face of Blindness

Richard Turner is a living breathing card mechanic. His friends and family call him Rick, and he manipulates cards in ways which leave people scratching their heads. An audience member picks a card, tells Rick what it is, and places it back in the deck. Rick invites the participant to cut the deck and then pulls out a card and asks what it is. Surprise! It's the very card initially selected. Sometimes we see Rick breaking open a new pack of cards, cutting the deck, shuffling it several times, and then revealing that all of the aces are together. A slightly different trick has him taking a deck of cards, asking someone how many cards they want, giving them a stack, and having them count. They hold the number they requested.

Both Rick and his sister Lori were born with sight but lost it due to a deterioration of the retina. Though their conditions were similar, their reactions couldn't have been more different. Rick makes no secret that he hates being blind and does everything he can to hide it. Of course people learn, and he considers this a distraction; the emphasis should be on what he does and not on how much he can see.

Lori reacts differently, deciding that the way to move on in life is to learn how blind people do things and then go about doing them. She designs houses and supervises their construction. She uses a guide dog, a computer with a screen reader, and an iPhone with VoiceOver. Though she travels a different path, she admires her brother and ever so gently pushes him to see that there are ways in which he can be more independent without playing on pity or sympathy.

The movie follows Rick as he is critiqued by card technicians and performers, reveals his absolute obsession with what he does, and shows him competing for the major award given to card mechanics by card mechanics. Three times he is nominated; twice he loses to competitors, but when he wins, he does so to the great admiration of his fellows, all asserting that winning evidences what he has learned and earned through mastery of his art.

I like this movie because it strikes me as real: highlighting the drive required to succeed as a performer and the discipline to become an expert. I like it because Rick lives the life he wants. By movie's end he is coming to understand that his seeming independence has come at a tremendous cost to others, that his blindness provided the drive necessary to his success, and that what he has rejected can make a good life even better, not only for him but for those who have spent so much time helping him avoid dealing with blindness. He raises the bar by showing the public that we too can be exceptional; he comes to understand that success doesn't mean denying who he is.

As President Riccobono said, “The National Federation of the Blind believes that the film Dealt skillfully tells a compelling story of a gifted man who is living the life he wants. Rick Turner refuses to be defined by his blindness or to let it hold him back. His talent and his determination will inspire and enlighten everyone who sees this movie.”

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