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Circo - Movie Review - 2010

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Circo - Movie Review - 2010

Circo Poster Art

First Run Features

Life is A Circus

Aaron Schock's film follows the Ponce family who own and operate the Gran Circo Mexico, a one ring circus that travels through rural Mexico, setting up their tent, performing and bringing joy to locals who can afford the price of a ticket. The Ponce clan has been in the circus business for over a century, but inter-generational tensions and economic hardships make it unclear whether the family's ten members -- including young five children -- can continue their tradition.

On The Road With Gran Circo Mexico

This film takes us on a very unusual road trip, as filmmaker Aaron Schock follows the Ponce clan, a family of ten who run the Gran Circo Mexico, a small traveling circus that constantly tours the scenic Mexican countryside. The focus is on the family members -- five adults and five youngsters -- as they face the financial and emotional hardships of continuing their clan's century-old circus tradition and way of life.

We travel with the Ponces, seeing how they live in their trailer, roll into a town and unpack their semi which is filled with the big top tent, aerial rigging, 'globe of death,' a caged tiger and a tethered camel, and other equipment. They set up, perform, pack up and are on the move again.

The work is physically grueling and there is little economic reward in these times of economic recession. The family is struggling, and there are questions about whether they will be able to and should keep their circus business and family tradition alive.

There are also concerns for the welfare of the children, who manage to fit in some play time between their tasks, rehearsals and performances. They seem happy, but they clearly work too hard and are not being given a primary education. They can pitch a tent and do back bends, but they don't know how to read and write. taught to read and write. Their mother, who married into the Ponce family and isn't tied to the circus tradition, wants a better, brighter, different future for them.

Refreshing Authenticity

The Ponce's story is well told. It is sufficiently detailed but not repetitive. The characters go freely about their daily lives and express their distinct points of view freely without an eye to the ever present camera. They do occasionally address the camera directly to share their thoughts, however Aaron Schock keeps himself out of the picture, so your impressions never seem to be filtered through his. The film has a refreshing authenticity to it. And, rather extraordinarily, it elicits in you a subtle nostalgia for a way of life with which you're newly familiar.

Circo has neither the scope nor the spectacular cinematography of the other 2010 circus documentary, Circus, the PBS six-episode chronicling of a year's tour with the NY-based Big Apple Circus, nor does it have the high narrative drama of the 1952 Oscar-winning The Greatest Show On Earth, but it is an equally entertaining and truly lovely portrait of a small, independent, very traditional family circus and a fast fading way of life. If the Gran Circo Mexico does eventally fall by the wayside, at least we will have this captivating and wonderfully empathetic documentary to memorialize it.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Circo
  • Directors: Aaron Schock
  • Theatrical release Date: April 1, 2011 (limited)
  • Running Time: 75 mins
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: Mexico/USA
  • Locations: Mexico
  • Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
  • Production Company: C5, Hecho A Mano
  • Distribution Company: First Run Features
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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