The hamlet of Igloolik in far northern Canada and the city of Conakry in West Africa’s Guinea are plagued by distinct issues, one a troubling suicide rate, the other widespread poverty. The film Circus Without Borders brings them together, focusing on two individuals in these places who are encouraging participation in the circus arts as a source of strength.
The documentary from Northern Light Productions has just been digitally released, having screened at a number of festivals this fall, including the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Directed by Susan Gray and produced by Linda Matchan, a Boston Globe reporter, it chronicles a seven-year journey from the frigid Arctic to the heat of Guinea, and reveals both the power and limits of what circus can do.
Yamoussa Bangoura and Guillaume Saladin, two skilled acrobats, met while performing in Montreal in 2001. “We just discovered we had the same dream, helping kids through circus,” Bangoura says. The filmmakers follow Bangoura to Guinea, where he’s launched Kalabanté to encourage impoverished youth interested in acrobatics, with the potential for employment abroad. In Iglooklik, where the French Canadian Saladin partly grew up with his anthropologist parents, the film looks at Artcirq, which Saladin founded to engage the large population of young indigenous people in their local traditions through circus. He encourages the passing on of storytelling culture, and clowning is accompanied by throat singing; the Artcirq performers balance in formations mimicking the inukshuk stone cairns on surrounding ice and snow. These performances happen with the viewers still able to remember firsthand when Inuit children were sent to missionary schools, where they were separated from their families and not allowed to practice their language.
The film has beautiful moments of performance, even when it’s on a trash-strewn beach, as when the young men of Kalabanté audition for the equestrian circus Cavalia, twisting through seemingly impossible somersaults before the waves. Members of Artcirq briefly visit the group in Guinea, but otherwise their stories are distinct. Kalabanté is a way out of poverty, and in that a way out of Guinea for the performers; Artcirq is a way to reconnect with home.
“Yamoussa is trying to bring his guys to find a way to move out of Guinea and perform everywhere they can,” Saladin says. “We had a chance to perform in many different countries, but that made the group realize that Igloolik is beautiful and unique and that’s where we belong.”
One of the founding performers of Artcirq, Solomon Uyarasuk, died in 2012 while in police custody from an apparent suicide, although the cause remains undetermined. It’s a startling moment in the film, especially as seen through the eyes of Saladin, who’s devoted so much of his life, heart, and body to making the circus a ray of hope in a place shrouded by so much death. “I made it clear inside I can save no one, only me. And that’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of their own life,” he concludes. While one person, or even a troupe of people juggling and soaring through the air, can only do so much, there’s a shared spirit of survival in these stories, and the possibility of performing for a more positive future.
Circus Without Borders can be rented or bought online.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed forcefully posits multiple parallels between the world Nan Goldin grew up in and the one she fights in today.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including Bob Thompson, Aimee Goguen, Uta Barth, the Transcendental Painting Group, and more.
The latest episode of this documentary series on PBS explores the meaning of home through handmade objects, hand built homes, and the artists who create them.
There is the singular artist and then there is the more exclusive club that has only one member. Harvey belongs to the latter.
The artists say the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma must sever ties with Poju Zabludowicz, whose wealth comes in part from Israeli defense contracting.
Rhode Island School of Design opens registration for its residential summer Pre-College program and year-round online intensive Advanced Program Online.
Vanessa Albury, whose eco-friendly ceramic sculptures help revive filter-feeder populations, is raising funds to complete her first film about the project.
An archeological exploration of the amphitheater’s sewers and water systems uncovered remnants of meat, vegetables, olives, nuts, and yes, pizza.
Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic’s editor-in-chief, is one of the guest jurors reviewing applications for the two-month residency in Utica, New York.
At this year’s show, I reflected on the lack of bilingual materials, the absurdity of art-fair gimmick, and the workers who make it all possible.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including art made during the first stock market crash, a homage to feline friends, and the 10-year anniversary of a crucial public art initiative.
Hear a band of improvisers led by Rajna Swaminathan and a performance of Morton Feldman’s “For John Cage” in programs inspired by the exhibition, “New York: 1962-1964.”
Astrid Dick was told that she could not paint stripes because Sean Scully and Frank Stella have done so before her, a patently foolish statement.
Paddy Johnson answers your questions about art fairs, visibility, and frustrating studio visits.