LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Circo - review of a fantastico DVD about the Mexican circus!

Behind the big top of Gran Circo Mexico
in the atmospheric documentary Circo
In Mexico they have a saying: “Through good and bad - the circus forever!” Circo, a fantastico documentary shot and directed by Aaron Schock, shows both the good times and the bad times, while leaving no doubt that the circus will indeed endure forever.

The film, now on DVD, follows the fortunes of the Gran Circo Mexico, a small family circus touring impoverished rural Mexico. Tino Ponce, the mainstay of the show, was born into the circus tradition and is determined that his young kids will carry on the life of his parents and grandparents. The school age kids, who have never been to school, provide most of his acts, from lion training to aerial silk and contortionism.

A scene from Circo
But all is not well in the big top. Tino’s wife, a town girl, is unhappy with her children being driven so hard: “You are supposed to give your children everything, but our children give us everything.” Ivonne also resents all the profits from her their hard labour being passed to Tino’s aging parents, who own the circus.

“The circus always comes first, before anything else,” Ivonne moans, while Tino admits “I’m walking a tightrope,” between responsibility to his parents and responsibility to his wife and children.

While the marital tension builds, Schock’s unhurried film shows the harsh reality of circus life: the gritty, debris strewn circus sites “behind the gas station” in villages with the feel of a third world country; the endless travel and constant practise; the mud, dirt, Gypsy camp conditions and lack of basic amenities: at one point, one of Tino’s sons scales a wall and uses a long stick with a hook of copper wire on the end to rig a makeshift electrical supply from a nearby overhead line.

“We’re trapped in our circus world - caged,” comments Ivonne. But, despite the deprivations, those who leave the circus - even Ivonne, in the end - always come back. As Tino states, “My hope is to die here in the circus.”

With an atmospheric soundtrack by band Calexico, this fantastico film is released on DVD by Network Releasing, price £12.99, and is warmly recommended.


And don’t forget, if you want to see what goes on behind the scenes of Britain’s circuses, check out my book, Circus Mania! To read about the lives, culture, history, superstitions and secrets of sword swallowers, trapeze stars and tiger trainers click here to order the updated 2nd Edition from Amazon.

And, as we say in the UK, “May all your days be circus days!”