“Circo” is a 75-min documentary, by Aaron Schock, about a family-run Mexican Circus. This is a very interesting tale of a job on the margins, in a country, Mexico, that’s on the margins of the Western world’s media radar. In “Circo,” a family, the Ponces, is born into, grows up in and lives and works in its own small, struggling family-run circus. Compromises, troubles and strained & clashing loyalties make the circus that is the family and its work.
The Mexican economy isn’t kind or gentle to this family. Too many small-scale circuses compete among one another for dwindling and poor audiences. Ironically the Ponces are among them.
This opens at Minneapolis’ Lagoon Cinema for a week on May 20th.
The circus is surviving, squeezing out enough money for the Ponces to subsist. Theirs is a nomadic lifestyle. They’re nomadic entertainers in a world that has little use for that entertainment; their story is special, maybe unique.
The mom, Ivonne Ponce, wants her children go to school, to prepare to have choices and careers away from the circus. Instead the dad, Tino Ponce, was raised holding his loyalty to parents above all (where his dad relies on and expects him to keep the one successful family circus afloat). His father has three other sons, each of whom is struggling with his own circus.
The children want for a 20th-Century childhood, with playtime, school and neighborhood playmates. This brand of childhood, before labor laws and longer life expectancies, takes us back the eras when people toiled until their 30s, and didn’t know a playful youth. There’s a scene, just beside the entry to a trailer, where grandpa trains his youngest grand daughter in contortion; as she cries and wails it brings back images from the abusive training that made parts of Jet Li and Jackie Chan’s training infamous.
This documentary raises several interesting topics about family loyalty, zeal for “old-time” or “by-gone” values, work ethic and child rearing; unto themselves these are worthy of an essay, but not here. Very few movies deal with any of these in smart or interesting ways, much less all in one story.
“Circo” gives us a gander at a way of living, of working, of loving and is foreign to the U.S. It’s a well-told tale that deserves to be scene. Even though the final act is confused about its purpose or how it wants to leave us; it should be trimmed by 15-minutes – it drags.