KO Review of Circus Dynasty
Circus Dynasty is a documentary film written and directed by Anders Riis-Hansen. The film follows two renowned circus families around Denmark, theCasselly family and the Berdino family. Both families have built a legacy through generations of circus performing that date back to the 1800’s. The Casselly family’s daughter Marylu is romantically involved with the Berdino family’s son Patrick. Marylu and Patrick were friends since early childhood, as their paths crossed so often on the road performing.
Circus Dynasty made its Canadian premiere at theHot Docs Film Festival– Canadian International Documentary Festival April 25, 2015 in the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The film’s director and writer Riis-Hansen was in attendance and I was able to discuss the film with him.
The story of the two young and promising circus performers develops initially through their parents who tell the story of their circus families and how they have come together. It is obvious the enormous pressure facing the two lovers as it would be wonderful for their families if they were a performing couple and took over the family circus’ on their own one day. Circus Dynasty captures not only the physical stress on the body facing the families from performance to performance, but also the emotional stress involved in the opportunity to take their circus abroad. The interweaving of business and the relationship of Patrick and Marylu reaches a turning point on evening shortly after the offer to the Casselly family is made by Mr. Kenneth Feld from Barnum and Bailey circus. Mr. Feld wants to sign the Casselly family to be part of their act in America. Mr. Feld comes to visit the Casselly’s and makes them an offer that the patriarch Rene Casselly needs to seriously consider.
“This is how the modern world and old world clash. It was important to show the film from the kids perspective” says Riis-Hansen who spent two years with the families traveling around documenting them living, rehearsing and performing. “As a director, you need to really reach into that dramatic toolbox and discover as you go what works and what doesn’t. These people work 24/7.” Riis-Hansen had always had a deep fascination with the circus, which is why he took on this documentary project. He discovered a very deep appreciation for the level to which these performers put themselves out there, mentally and physically for the entertainment of others. When Riis-Hansen started filming, Marylu and Patrick had just won the Clown d’Or (Golden Clown) for young artists at The 2012 International Circus Festival of Monte-Carloand bought their first trailer (home) together. This was a tremendous achievement for such a young couple. Naturally, the young couples relationship suffers a dispute and they individually open up to the filmmaker in a beautifully raw and innocent way, that developes their characters as individuals and tugs on the audiences heart-strings. We see how the family is affected by the children’s choices… but the show must go on!