CIRCUS BAOBAB (DOCU -- FRANCE)
A Mondo Films release of a Mondo Films/Le Poisson Volant presentation of a Mondo Films, France 2 Cinema, Ex-machina, Kine Sud Video production. (International sales: Mondo, Paris.) Produced by Sophie Goupil.
Directed, written by Laurent Chevallier. Camera (color, DV to 35 mm), Chevallier; editor, Ange-Marie Revel; music, Momo Wendel Soumah; costumes, Fabienne Desfleches. Reviewed at Espace Saint-Michel, Paris, April 29, 2001. French and regional dialects. Running time: 100 MIN.
With: The Acrobatic Circus of Guinea (Le Cirque Acrobatique de Guinee), aka Circus Baobab.
French documaker Laurent Chevallier dreamed of following an African circus but was thwarted by the fact that "there are no circuses in Black Africa." To remedy the situation, three dozen illiterate youngsters were plucked from the streets of Conakry, Guinea, in northwest Africa and, over two years, trained in acrobatics and trapeze by imported French circus artists. "Circus Baobab" is the engaging account of the troupe's journey through Guinea on their very first tour, March 1-April 11, 2000.
To the mesmerized populations of various towns, the circus presents a gravity-defying folk tale about how man acquired drums. Offstage, the troupe's bus breaks down; a ritual is conducted to ward off rain; and the leader explains how seeing a Tarzan movie as a boy gave him the courage to climb a huge tree. Docu is more about the details of transporting and feeding the caravan than a concert-style film, and inspires more as a record of creating something worthwhile from scratch. However, the closing seg, in which the city-bred youngsters come face to face with the monkeys they've been imitating, is priceless. Pic resonates with delightful drum music.