When Circus of Books was released, it was undeniable that I would end up streaming the documentary eventually, and I have no regrets about doing so, as it was one of the best features I’ve seen in 2020.
It chronicles resident Californians Rachel and Barry Mason’s 33 years running a store which predominantly catered to the LGBT+ community, selling a range of gay pornography items – a venture the couple’s family knew nothing about until recent years. Their daughter Rachel, directs, making the narrative not only a celebration of how the store became central to the Los Angeles gay community, but how they struggled with keeping their jobs secret from those around them.
It is full of warmth and emotion, and features first hand interviews from those who found home in the Circus, making it even more moving. as it recounts key periods in recent LGBT history that had widespread implications, such as the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.
While this is a narrative which some may find discomforting in parts, it comes across as a story of acceptance, familial reconciliation and the ongoing importance of queer safe spaces.
Having been described by reviewers as ‘poignant,’ ‘generous’ and possessing ‘enormous humour and tenderness,’ this story is worth spending time exploring. It will evoke tears, joy and amazement, and cement why this is such a worthwhile topic of discussion that deserves continuous exploration.
9/10: Tbh, my only complaint is that it isn’t longer. All round brilliant.