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Arts & Culture

INDEPENDENT LENS: Circo

Tino Ponce enters the ring.
Courtesy of Aaron Schock
Tino Ponce enters the ring.

Airs Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Aaron Schock’s evocative "Circo" (Circus) intimately portrays the Ponce family’s Gran Circo Mexico as it struggles to make a living off its artistry, sweat, and wit in a changing world. "Circo" premieres on the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Mary-Louise Parker.

Set within a century-old, family-run rural traveling circus, Circo delivers an indelible portrait of a Mexican family struggling to stay together despite mounting debt, dwindling audiences, and a simmering family conflict that threatens this once-vibrant family tradition.

Tino, the ringmaster, is driven by his dream to lead his parents’ circus to success and he corrals the energy of his whole family, including his four young children, towards this singular goal. But his wife Ivonne is determined to make a change.

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Feeling exploited by her in-laws, she longs to give her children the opportunities available through schooling and return to them a childhood lost to the endless labor required to keep the circus afloat.

Filmed along the dusty back roads of rural Mexico, this cinematic road movie starkly contrasts the magical and luminous world of the circus while examining the universal themes of family bonds, filial responsibility, and the weight of cultural inheritance.

Through an intricately woven story of a marriage in trouble and of a century-old family tradition that hangs in the balance, "Circo" asks: to whom and to what should we ultimately owe our allegiance?

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter.

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Watch Meet the Ponce Family Circus! on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

The Ponce family’s hardscrabble circus has lived and performed on the back roads of Mexico since the 19th century, but can their way of life survive into the 21st? “Circo” (Circus) intimately portrays the Ponce family circus as it struggles to make a living from its artistry, sweat and wit against the backdrop of Mexico’s collapsing rural economy.
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Watch For a Circus Family, Life is a Balancing Act on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

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Watch Calexico on Making the Music Behind "Circo" on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

The Tucson-based band Calexico, whose mariachi-meets-jazz sound has been described as “desert noir,” first hit the Billboard charts in 2003 with their album Feast of Wire, and later released a critically acclaimed collaboration with the band Iron & Wine called "In the Reins." They have worked with Nancy Sinatra, Arcade Fire, Amos Lee, and released six studio albums of their own. The band features Joey Burns, and John Covertino. Here they discuss the pared-down process they used to compose the score for "Circo."