Saw this flick at the new Violet Crown Cinema. I thought the cinematography was lovely – both raw and beautiful. I loved that there were shots of the gorgeous landscapes of rural Mexico as well as the run down villages, and dusty roads. The family was engaging, honest, hilarious, and sad.

This was a different take on circus life from the Circus series on PBS. Rather than focusing on the social class hierarchy of a medium-sized circus, they focused on the familial struggles within a small, family-run circus. In my opinion, the director did a great job of portraying the struggles honestly and without judgment, forcing the viewer to decide what to feel/think about the various topics of child labor, poverty, education, the treatment of animals, and alternative lifestyle choices that were presented. I had a difficult time choosing sides in the struggle over the family. While the children seemed to work very hard, there were evident rewards of that work, as well as risks. I guess the reason these sorts of documentaries are so fascinating to me is they hyperbolize all of the different small choices we make on a daily basis that go with or against the grain of mainstream life. There are consequences either way. Both the circus and the life “en casa” are portrayed as cages by different people and at different times in the movie. In fact cages and chains seem to be a recurring theme throughout the film, with varying degrees of intensity.

This is the kind of film that forces you to laugh, simply because the interactions are universal, even though the context is specific. And, occasionally, that laughter quickly turns on you and forces you to consider what creates the context. Is the family in the circus business out of choice, or necessity? Are they really driven by the desire to create art, or the need to pay the creditors? And…are the children in this circus any more exploited than children in any region who are forced to work hard to help support the family? How does economic disparity play into the choices that are made?

I recommend it, but don’t count on feeling particularly uplifted at the end of it.

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