It’s probably safe to say that the circus isn’t at the top of the list of preferred millennial pastimes, but there was a time when the bigtop was something like The Force Awakens and Instagram rolled into one. Just a few decades ago entire family dynasties were built around the refined athleticism of the trapeze arts, and the quest for a perfectly executed triple or quadruple somersault was a matter of global import. And it also happens that in this not-so-distant past one of the greatest producers of acrobatic talent was none other than México lindo.
But don’t take our word for it: a new documentary from director Tom Moore traces the legacy of one of Mexico’s last great trapeze families, The Flying Gaonas, from the peak of their fame in the 1960s and 70s, to their current gigs training young would-be cirqueros. Born and raised in Guadalajara, the Gaona siblings were actually scions of a circus dynasty that dated back to Bernabé Gaona Ramos’ Circo Gaona y León, created in 1891. From there, several generations of Gaonas cultivated the circus arts and brought the world celebrated clowns, toreros, and trapeze artists; but it was The Flying Gaonas that would bring their name lasting fame.
Consisting of siblings Mando, Chela, Richie, and the cuartet’s unequivocal star Tito, The Flying Gaonas worked across Europe and the United States, even performing for Queen Elizabeth II, before settling into a sweet gig as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s regulars. The documentary, entitled The Flight Fantastic recovers some of this history while also laying bare Tito’s ultimately futile quest to land the first quadruple somersault. From there Moore takes us into Tito and Richie’s respective trapeze academies, where we witness the bigtop vets training future circus stars and giving a taste of trapeze life to children undergoing cancer treatment.
Moore’s style doesn’t seem to do much more than get the point across, and perhaps he spends a bit too much time in the present, but either way The Flight Fantastic promises to be a worthy introduction to the glorious days of circus past for a new generation raised on small screens and 4G connectivity.