The First-Ever Circus International Film Fest

Emily Fulton

Last February, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to be the Festival Assistant for the first-ever Circus International Film Festival (CIFF). This was a volunteer position where I was a key team member in the inner workings of this revolutionary festival. Let me just say, it was an amazing experience.

CIFF was founded by Marisa Diamond in early 2021. Marisa is an inspirational circus professional and filmmaker, on top of being one of the first youth to hold a leadership role at AYCO. She founded the Circus International Film Festival because she felt strongly that circus films deserved proper recognition by the film industry and they were simply not receiving the attention they deserved at other film festivals.

In February, I started my duties as Festival Assistant. In the beginning, my main responsibility was to review the 95 submitted films. This was a mammoth task because we needed to make sure that only films that met our criteria were accepted. It was incredible that, in our inaugural year, films were submitted from 25 different countries!

Next, I helped notify the creators’ of the accepted films. I really enjoyed this part because the filmmakers were all so thrilled when they were notified of their acceptance! Then I had to upload the 84 selected films to our official YouTube channel. I was surprised that this took me a super long time to do because many of our awesome films were quite long and very high quality. It took me what seemed like forever, but I did finish the task in time for each film to be screened!

Next came the actual screenings. These started on March 14th and ran until World Circus Day, April 18th. Each film was screened for 24 hours via a private YouTube link sent out to our ~1,100 audience members each morning. I was amazed at how many people watched the fantastic films we were showcasing each day!

There were four competing categories this year; Under 18, Shorts – Documentary, Shorts – Performance, and Full-Length. To allow even more filmmakers to participate, we also had an exhibition only category this year. CIFF had 12 total jury members who selected the winning films in each category, and we even had audience choice voting!

And the 2021 Circus International Film Festival’s winning films are: 

**drumroll please**

Jury Selected Awards:

Roses and Thorns by US based youth circus creator Izzi Kessner (Under 18)

New Horizons by French based circus professional Antoine Menard (Short – Documentary)

Wake by UK based circus professional Tamzen Moulding (Short – Performance)

Cirque Du Cambodia by US based film professional Joel Gershon (Full-Length)

Audience Choice Awards:

Isla Bonita by Puerto Rican youth circus company ENC Puerto Rico (Under 18)

Fer Sumundo by Mexican based circus professional Arelly Cantellano (Short – Documentary)

Zéro Vulnérablité by French based circus professional Antoine Menard (Short – Performance)

TEN by Canadian based circus professional Katelyn Ryan (Full-Length)

Next came my favorite part: Interviewing the creators of the winning films! We hosted four Instagram Lives on April 17th. I had the amazing opportunity to interview Joel Gershon, the winner of the Full-Length category. It was awesome to hear about his inspiration for and experience creating his film Cirque Du Cambodia! That was definitely the highlight of my CIFF volunteer work!

CIFF is always looking for more volunteers! If you are interested, shoot an email over to We love volunteers of all ages and I would encourage you to reach out if you are interested. I assure you that it will be a rewarding experience, and who knows what great opportunities you will get through your volunteer work!

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