Fool Proof

Fool Proof

Documentary (2002) – 1 hour


Producers: Paul Pope, Marian Francis White
Writer: Marian Francis White
Director: Marian Francis White


Fool Proof takes us on an international roller coaster ride as we entertain you with the history and art of clowning. Over the time span of three decades and across two continents, this one hour documentary uses the antics of professional clown Beni Malone, to springboard us into the world of the circus artist, and the spell cast by the circus performer. We travel with him to training with Ringling in the United States, to a Paris based training school under the direction of Anna Fratellini, to clips of famed clowns like Groc and Chaplin, and back to the present day phenomena of the Cirque de Soleil shows that have transformed the face of clowning.

Tracing Malone’s roots of physical theatre in Newfoundland (where a sense of humour is more prized than a university degree), we capture him in an orange grove (1970’s) where he worked picking oranges, and uses the fruit to practice juggling for his audition with Ringling Brothers Clown College, based in Venice, Florida. From there we make our way to Paris, where clowning is on the same pedestal as a good Camembert cheese. To show the challenges of a circus career, we take the viewer to a kite festival in Jamaica where a white-faced clown streaks colour in the tropical sun. Using previously shot footage, contrast this to a high ride coastal journey across the North Atlantic to remote areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. En route we glimpse icebergs and whales. In Rigolet the boat docks at midnight. The whole town is on the wharf waiting for their first glimpse of circus mania; flashlights in hand to spotlight the action.

Drawing on original footage and a montage of photographs, we take the documentary full circle to the National Circus School in Montreal, a school that prides itself on training artists for Cirque de Soleil. There, Malone’s daughter, Anahareo, trains as an aerialist. From there we use footage shot at the 2001 Clown Odyssey in Las Vegas, where a fraternity of clowns gathered for a Ringling Alumni Clown College Reunion. Here we encounter over three hundred clowns dressed in full regalia, surrounded by the glitz of American circus life. Here, only timers like Frosty Little, and “little people” like Jenna and other circus grads entertain us with stories of life on the road. Set in the rugged beauty of the North Atlantic, this film is an odyssey of hope and adventure. Viewers are transported into the unusual but natural world of clowns, who live in a world where angels fear to tread, but where fools willingly rush in.


Produced in Association With

Canadian Television Fund
Telefilm Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation
Vision TV
Newfoundland and Labrador film and Video Tax Credit
The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit
Partners in Motion
Harmony Entertainment Management Inc.