Posted by: franciscofisher | February 26, 2010

Review: ‘The Tightrope’

In director Nuria Ibáñez’s first feature-length film, a traveling family circus struggles to keep its tradition alive.

“On the surface, it is the astonishment of the painted animals,” said Ibáñez during a Q&A after the film. “But it is about the (family’s) dignity and autonomy.”

“The Tightrope” is one of two Mexican circus films showing at the True/False Film Festival (“Circo” is the other). While they consider themselves “circus people,” the performers in “The Tightrope” are wonderful characters as well.

They tell jokes; they misplace their costumes (sometimes a pony); they sit around a small table in their trailer to eat and laugh and tell stories of how they fell in love.

Tension arises when the daughter, Jaque, decides to leave with a younger member of the circus named Carmelo. She is conflicted by the abandonment of her parents, who have devoted their lives to the circus and continue to persevere despite the empty seats and hard work.

“No one is going to applaud you for cooking,” her mother tells her. This is the real reason they carry on, for the joy of entertaining people and proving to themselves and each other they have what it takes.

When not enough people show up for a show, they turn off the loudspeakers and watch a Cirque du Soleil video on a small television. The younger circus people are discouraged by what they see, but the mother insists that they are simply more “traditional.”

Traditional, yes, but their circus is certainly not glamorous: the tent has holes, the animals are stubborn and dirt seems to cover everything in sight. Ibáñez focuses on these elements, filming through dirty windows and showing the grit of circus life close up.

The director notes that she didn’t use much dialogue as a screenwriter, and planned the static moments in the film to convey emotion and meaning to the audience. While a few scenes do hang on a bit long, the film generally has a good pace and is full of witty dialogue.


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