Contributing Writer; Chile, Santiago de Chile (@jaimegrijalba)

FIDOCS (Festival Internacional Documentales Santiago Chile) has always been a showcase of the best documentary output that the world has to offer. 

At the same time it has managed to always choose the best documentaries that will have Chile talk for the rest of the year, and sometimes even the entire film world. In its 18 years of history, there's never been one Chilean documentary that was forgettable or in any way a shameful representation of the best that we can offer.

This year the Chilean lineup had an amazing level, but the film that the people will mostly talk about is this one, the chronicle of two years in the life and activities of one of the most classic circuses of Chile, the Timoteo's Fabulous Ragged Circus, where the performers are mostly transsexuals (male to female) who sing, dance, tell jokes and mostly fool around with the audience in a history of over 40 years with thousands of people all over Chile laughing over their antics.

Now, the documentary, while showing some of the routines, movements and songs that they perform, is not a film that centers just around the capture of one of their nights. It's a film about what surrounds them, how they prepare, how feminine their ways are even when they are not performing, and even because of that they are capable of taking care of, organizing, producing and revising every aspect that comes with the presentation, the installation of the tent and the rest of the implements needed. It is a movie about their power of becoming something important in a society that denies them.

And, in a way, they are making a great effort for the past 40 years, even if most of their routines and jokes circle around the cliches and even the most offensive concepts of being a transsexual person. It manages to put their themes and tribulations in front of the people of Chile, who aren't used to seeing someone like that in the street without laughing or treating them in a different way. The audience of their shows, as seen in this film, range from all the various social groups and all ages. It's important that they keep on going after all these years so they can still put a normal face to a certain sexual orientation/identity issue.

The film chronicles two years of the circus, covering the working relationship between the performers and Timoteo, who runs the show. He's already a very old man who, as time advances, feels that the way that people go less and less to shows like the ones they put up is pushing him toward retirement. He feels that the sketches are starting to have too much dialogue, and the circus tent itself is becoming more and more expensive to maintain. He needs a change of pace, or maybe he needs to go to the doctor. That's when the drama of this documentary starts to set in.

The film tackles many subjects, and the editing work is superb, managing to work around over 200 hours of footage filmed in two years. It gives the sensation that the film has the same pull as the circus itself, it can make you laugh and then it can make you cry out of pure emotion. 

When it comes out in theaters, people will gather around to see it and love it, and preserve, in some way, the legacy of this circus that still goes on strong, even though the owners and the performers are getting older and older. People still go to see them, and as that still happens, the circus will go on.

Timoteo's Fabulous Ragged Circus

  • Lorena Giachino Torréns
  • Lorena Giachino Torréns
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