A good documentary lets its subjects talk and tell their story. This is what After Circus does. At no point does the viewer get the feeling director Viveka Melki gets in the way of the story or its people. Also, it is so artfully put together that I was surprised to learn After Circus was filmed over a period of three years.
After Circus looks at what happens to circus people when and after they retire. It is set in Sarasota, Florida where circuses and circus people have gone to winter since Ringling started the tradition. It features a range of performers though I find it interesting that there are many more old aerialists than any other circus performers featured in this documentary, especially considering aerialists do the most dangerous performances in a circus. The documentary focuses on aerialist Dolly Jacobs who is semi-retired but still teaches and performs with Circus Sarasota with partner Rafael Palacios.
It also follows the story of a few other, older circus people who survive on their small savings. Sarasota is changing so it is becoming harder and harder for circus people to find a home or a tract of land to sit their mobile home on. Fortunately, there are a few good people looking out for them, not all of whom are former circus people.
Another kudo for director Melki is she also lets archival footage tell the backstory and is very clever in in inserting just the right comment from just the right character to get a point across and the narrative moving.
After Circus was chosen to be included in the Smithsonian Museum Circus Arts exhibition in Washington DC in 2017. It is easy to see why.
After Circus airs June 12th at 9 pm on the Documentary Channel. You do not want to miss it.