For nine generations the Rosaire family has brought laughter and joy to the world through their work as circus performers. Torn between tradition and the changing world of entertainment, the film documents the family at a crossroads.
While their particular circus has always been known for their particularly humanistic treatment of their animals (which include lions, tigers, bears and chimps), tastes are changing and audiences and ethics are turning their backs on the more traditional circus model. Brimming with personality and passion, the family effectively drive most of the film.
At the head of the family is the vibrant Derrick Rosaire Sr. who was in his 80s at the time the film was made. In his youth he had performed for royalty, American presidents and huge crowds — today he struggles to find enough work to survive. The circus and their animals are their life passion, and it is not something they will quickly abandon. Most of the family members take menial jobs in other fields to pay the bills. Shot over a five year period with few resources, the filmmaking itself reflects the passion of it’s subjects. While colorful and occasionally bordering on the absurd, the subjects are treated with incredible dignity and respect. We get a sense of camaraderie between the filmmaker and the Rosaire’s, a knowing wink of pursuing implausible dreams.
The film has a rare intimacy that can only come from a scope and a time-frame that most documentarians are unable to commit to. The film is an interesting reflection on what we now see as fringe entertainment. The ethics of the circus world remain consistently up to debate, and we see as the Rosaire family struggle with animal rights issues and changing tastes of audiences. A celebration tinged with sadness, this film is as much about family as it is about the circus world.