Tweet: @invisibleccircus. Image courtesy Naomi Smyth
Naomi Smyth brings her avant-garde sensibilities and unique camerawork to bear on Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal, a documentary about a communal group – The Invisible Circus – whose inspiring indie ethics and refusal to sell out is caught on film. The screening is in Bristol this Saturday at The Watershed, 2pm.
With the arts group The Invisible Circus under threat from self-interested landowners, the group has to change tactics and explore alternative ownership of empty urban buildings to help restore open spaces to their creative world, and produce some of the biggest, most spectacular performances ever seen.
The audience is invited to discover a professional arts collective whose live, awe-inspiring shows threaten to blow even Punchdrunk out of the water; yet are miles away from the “norms” of high-brow theatre. We are instead taken on a 4-year journey with the Circus, in just 98 minutes.
Director Smyth on her film: “I would hope that the film provides a window into the squatting world that I know- filled with practical, self-reliant people who hate waste and have a mission to creatively use things somebody else has discarded- from a building some property developer is keeping empty for commercial reasons to a truckload of theatre flats or shop dummies or even food from a skip.”
The film is filled with larger-than-life people like Dougie, the unofficial spokersperson, who live on the fringes and squat in a breathtaking, disused cathedral that they transform – with no arts funding whatsoever – into spectacular pop-up performance and audience-friendly hubs.
In a startling deconstruction of the film, we see the director is challenged by Circus member Cat as to the ownership of the material she’s recorded – and we find out that Naomi quits her job and goes freelance to follow the circus full-time.
“It took a lot of work to build up trust with some people but I had to be honest about the fact that I considered it my film, not the property of the group. So the editorial control would be mine and I was making a documentary not a promo for the project or a ‘community film’ to serve the project’s needs. That is what Cat refers to in the meeting. She is making a doc now herself and totally gets that distinction,” says Smyth.
“A lot of ‘activist’ films are simply about cheering people on against the state and corporations. Often people in that scene expect to see either that or a ‘mainstream’ hatchet job. I wanted to be more creative than that, especially as the group started working with corporations and it wasn’t a black and white issue.”
A handheld affair and boldly shot, Invisible Circus gives a unique insight into the alternative communal world of performers whose refusal to sell out makes for a gripping documentary experience.
Future Artists will be working with Naomi Smyth to distribute and promote the film for the premiere screening at The Watershed, an independent arts and film venue in Bristol.
A very real and modern documentary, Invisible Circus: No Dress Rehearsal challenges our apathy of empty, disused urban spaces, dilapidated shop fronts and ultimately gives uplifting tale about how the power of persistence, creativity and passion brings about an amazing reversal in the audience’s – and the big property developers’ –perception of circus art.