BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Oct 20th, 2011 •

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CIRCO is a documentary that follows the Ponce Family and their Gran Circo Mexico as they travel through the Mexican countryside. The circus is led by Tino Ponce (Ringmaster) and involves the participation of the entire family, including his children. There doesn’t seem to be any distinction between the circus and the family. They are one in the same. If you leave the circus, you leave the family. The story of the Ponce family and their traveling circus is very relatable. No, we don’t all come from a circus family, but there are certain family dynamics and characteristics that are universal.

Tino is determined to keep the family circus (its legacy) going despite financial difficulties and the disapproval of his wife. He doesn’t want to leave his parents and break up the family or the act. This is all he’s ever known. His wife wants to leave the circus, worried that her children are missing out on their childhood, spending their time training and performing. There is also the feud with Tino’s parents and his wife. Yes, no family drama would ever be complete without trouble with the in-laws. They don’t like Tino’s wife. She’s an outsider. They are surprised she has lasted this long with the circus. On the other hand, Tino’s wife feels like her in-laws are manipulating her husband, taking more of a cut of the profits, even thought Tino is doing all of the work. Poor Tino is caught between his wife, his parents, and the circus. What’s a guy to do?

With all the drama surrounding Tino, his wife, and his parents, I feel the heart of the story is the Ponce children. The children are trained to carry on the legacy and tradition of Gran Circo Mexico. The future of the family, therefore the circus, rests on their young shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure for young children. Instead of playing with friends or going to school, they work on their acrobatic and other performance skills. They barely know how to read or write. I think that’s the saddest part of the story. That alone limits their choices for the future, but then again, their future is already laid out for them. The most heartbreaking scene was watching Tino’s young niece, about five years old, being forced to practice her acrobatics. She cries as they force her to stretch and contort her body. My heart ached for her.

We do get other glimpses of the circus life perspective from Tino’s brother and sister. His brother leaves the circus to marry a woman he met in town only to return. The transition was too much for him to take. The circus is all he knows. He couldn’t get used to life on the outside or staying in one place. Tino’s sister marries a man from town, and returns to the circus occasionally to perform. She gets the best of both worlds. However, this isn’t what Tino’s parents wanted for their children. Once their children left the circus, they left the family, and were practically disowned. It wasn’t until their return that their parents seemed to make some kind of peace with their choices.

It took me a couple of viewings to get through CIRCO. I found the story to be interesting, but the subtitles were not a thick enough font to read, and they seemed were put against images that were light in color. I found myself squinting to read the subtitles and questioning my eyesight. After moving closer and closer to the television, I realized it wasn’t my eyesight. This made me lose interest in the film. It became too much work and I found myself not caring whether Tino chose his wife and kids over the circus or if his wife chose to leave.

I also found myself not caring about the special features on DVD, which includes a follow up on the Ponce Family, director commentary, and the Making of The Circo Score. The follow up on the Ponce family was slightly interesting. We learn what happened in the marriage of Tino and his wife and what happened to Gran Circo Mexico after the filming of the documentary. Without giving away the ending of CIRCO, if you loved the film, you will definitely want to watch the follow up feature. It will answer questions about the future of the Ponce Family and Gran Circo Mexico that the end of the film leaves open-ended.

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