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Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week: 'Circo'

April 14, 2011 |  2:20 pm


With the much-anticipated circus-set "Water for Elephants" headed to theaters next week, this would be a good time to catch up with this excellent documentary, a hit at the Los Angeles Film Festival and playing its final night tonight at the Nuart in West Los Angeles.

A clear-eyed and affectionate film about a tiny traveling family circus in Mexico, "Circo" tells its remarkable story with visual and personal sensitivity. Filmmaker Aaron Schock not only produced and directed, he was his film's cameraman and sound recordist as well.

Interested in doing a project about the interior of Mexico that did not involve the specter of immigration, Schock got what he was looking for when he came across this small but feisty circus. The show travels by camper and truck across some of the most rural parts of Mexico, staying one night or at most two in the tiny towns along the way.

Because he put in the time -- eight visits over 21 months -- Schock ended up being privy to intimate discussions and a web of personal difficulties that directly bear on the circus' future.

 More than that, the filmmaker has a fine eye for the unexpected shopworn beauty of this kind of vagabond life, for things like the glow of ancient incandescent bulbs and the sheen of hand-made circus costumes. When the man who runs things feelingly says, "the circus is tough and beautiful," he's speaking for this fine film as well.


Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week: 'The Ten Commandments'

-- Kenneth Turan

Photo: Two of Gran Circo Mexico's 10-member Ponce family. Credit: First Run Features

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I have always been interested in things related to the circus. This seems like a very compelling look into the reality behind this small traveling circus. Looking forward to seeing this documentary.


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