Imposters appear as gentlemen amongst criminals. Their scams are always audacious, normally genius and often simply unbelievable.
Unbelievable, but true.
Why do we always fall for the fraudster’s tricks?
By means of the coups of the third exceptional conman the film illuminates the seduction strategies of the renowned conman.
In 1820 Scotsman Gregor MacGregor went peddling in the heavenly land of “Poyais” in Europe and collected a fortune from well-meaning expats. Only: There was no alluring Poyais at all. “Land X” researches in Scotland with the Macgregor clan, where the ancestor enjoys a questionable reputation to this day.
This fear of being the victim of mockery and laughter was also what made gold- maker Franz Tausend famous in the Weimar republic. He earned millions through the transformation of crude metal into precious gold. A hocus pocus, which his casualties were only too happy to believe.
And the bluff by Hungarian Victor Lustig is also worthy of a film: in 1925 Lustig sold the Eiffel Tower to a Parisian scrap dealer. He looked specifically for his victim, ingratiated himself, listened to them until he they trusted him. The fraud was so embarrassing to his victims, that no one reported him. Selling the landmark of Paris as scrap metal, that could only be pulled off by the charming, sensitive Lustig. “Terra X” focuses on the path of the dazzling con artist and asks what it has to do with his manifesto “ten commandments for the master conman”.
Russian-American journalist and best-selling author Maria Konnikova comments in this “Terra X” documentary on magnificent scams and revealed why the fraud belonged to the actual nature of humans: “Because of our quality of trust. Because what we think of as an imposter, is exactly what makes us human.”
Sunday, 12. August 2018 / 19:30 / ZDF
Length:: 43 minutes
directed by: Philipp Grieß, Eike Schmitz
written by: Philipp Grieß
Camera: Philipp Grieß
1AD: Gregor Reinbold
Editor: Mathieu Honoré
Music: Achim Gieseler
Sound design & mix: Sebastian Reuter
Production assistants: Inês Achando, Franziska Hoffmann, Massimiliano Salino
Advisers: Maria Konnikova, Eric Yung, Jeff Maysh, Matthew Brown, Franz Wegener
Narrator: Gert Heidenreich
Commissioning editor: Bernhard von Dadelsen