What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, overall, this six-part PBS docuseries is an exceptionally well-made and educational choice for family viewing. But along with that, there's some bleeped swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and iffy audibles like "bastard," "balls," and "hell." There are occasional onscreen arguments, too, along with at least one character who smokes cigarettes -- and some subtle promotion of the Big Apple Circus brand.
What's the story?
In the six-part documentary CIRCUS, filmmakers Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre capture life under the big top at the Big Apple Circus, a traveling troupe of acrobats, clowns, trick riders, and other entertainers who perform for the public in an intimate, one-ring setting. Along the way, viewers meet Steve, the circus' energetic guest director; Glen, a new clown with a checkered past; and Austin, a costumer tasked with creating outfits for high-flying clients.
Is it any good?
This docuseries is entertainingly real. There's a lot we think we know about the circus, whether those assumptions come from observations we've made while sitting in the audience or from movies like Big Top Pee-Wee. But, for some, the most surprising lesson of this warts-and-all PBS documentary will be that circus life isn't always fun and games. Turns out, clowns can, indeed, be rather depressing, and a few circus folk are running from the law.
That's not to say the series unduly highlights these less-savory aspects of circus life, but it doesn't shy away from them either, even building the bulk of one episode around a young circus worker's arrest (and eventual release) for making an alleged bomb threat. (His response to the charges? "Tell them all to f--k off. They can all go to hell.") Thanks to amazing performance footage -- and the impossibly cheery antics of the company's can-do director (a real-life Corky St. Clair if there ever was one) -- there's plenty of razzle dazzle, too.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the documentary format and how well the filmmakers capture the true spirit of the circus. Does the film contradict any conceptions you had about the way a professional circus runs or the people it employs? What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Why would the Big Apple Circus agree to be featured in a film like this? Is the circus taking a risk by allowing cameras to film what happens behind the scenes?
Do you get the sense that you're getting a "real" look at circus life? Why did the filmmakers choose to present their movie as six, hour-long segments rather than a feature-length film?