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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Alexia and Reyna Ponce in "Circo," a documentary about a traveling Mexican circus that culminates with a showdown.

Photo: First Run Features

Intimate story of Mexican circus people rings true to 'Circo' director"Circo" director Aaron Schock had no inkling when he went to Mexico to shoot a documentary about corn farmers that he would in fact wind up spending the next 22 months following a family of itinerant circus folk. But when the Ponce family's traveling big top came to the village where Schock had begun filming, the New Yorker realized the subject was too rich to pass up. He explains that there are "so many stereotypes of circus people as drunks or crazies or oddballs, but what struck me most about this family when I met them is they were extremely hardworking and just trying to make a living. I was immediately drawn to (that side of) the story." After introducing himself to the circus members, Schock returned to Mexico a few months later bearing gifts: silver gelatin prints of black-and-white photographs he'd taken of ringmaster Tino, his wife and their four children. He says, "They began to see that they would be represented in a respectful way." Within hours after the family agreed to become documentary subjects, Schock was pressed into service. "After their performance I spent all night helping them break down the tent," he recalls. "Once everything was packed up, Tino threw me the keys to one of the trucks and said, 'You're going to drive that one.' The whole thing was a little nuts, but somehow I just got involved in their lives." Working without a crew, Schock used his microphone-embedded video camera to capture tensions between family members that culminated in a dramatic third-act showdown. Schock, who earned a degree in government from Columbia University before turning to filmmaking, says he worked hard to let the story unfold on its own terms. " 'Circo' could have been turned into this social issue film about children who are being oppressed, but that's not the reality I encountered," Schock says. "There were no villains. I saw people faced with hard choices making very difficult decisionsRead more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/08/PK211IMO18.DTL#ixzz1J6NL0BuH

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