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Lisa Denker collaborating with Circus Center and fiscal sponsor Bay Area Video Coalition
Award: $35,000 Media Arts grant awarded in 2006
Completed: 70 minute rough-cut with post-production funds to be raised

Filmmaker Lisa Denker and Circus Center are collaborating on a one-hour documentary film with and about circus performer Judy Finelli. Ability: a film portrait of Judy Finelli will reveal the juggler’s influential contribution to the American New Circus Movement through her co-founding of the San Francisco School of Circus Arts (now Circus Center) with Wendy Parkman in 1984.

In 1989, Finelli was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the progression of the illness over time completely immobilized her, removing her ability to perform. Nevertheless, Finelli returned to the Circus Center as a teacher-mentor.

Developed through a close artistic partnership between filmmaker Denker and performer Finelli, Ability will tell a life story, celebrate circus history, and explore the Bay Area’s circus arts legacy.

Circus Center is home to the San Francisco School of Circus Arts, the Clown Conservatory, the San Francisco Youth Circus, and The New Pickle Circus. It was originally established as an outgrowth of The Pickle Family Circus, and currently serves approximately 900 students every year.

Lead artist Lisa Denker has worked in several capacities in both independent and commercial film. Her prior independent film, Heart of the Sea/Kapolioka’ehuki, a one-hour portrait of Hawaiian surfing legend Rell Sunn, was broadcast on PBS and internationally. The film has garnered many awards.