“People see clowns and perceive that they are happy, but after the makeup comes off, it is revealed that clowns are people and they have lives and struggles, too” says Julie Florio of her short documentary Patchwork. Florio, along with Kim Plummer and Tevita Toutaiolepo, were recently awarded the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Best of Festival King Foundation Award for their touching portrait of Clown Chips and the man behind the makeup, 62-year-old Julius Carallo.
Clown Chips is a beloved addition to birthday parties and uses his painted smile and joyful antics to get a laugh out of everyone he encounters. The three filmmakers were looking into the subculture of clowning when they met Clown Chips at a convention in Seaside Heights, N.J. “I remember filming him, and we asked him, ‘Why did you become a clown?’” Plummer said. “He broke into this story about [a past tragedy and how he] wanted to share positivity instead of bitterness. It was a stark contrast from all the other answers about loving to be around children.” Intrigued by the disconnect between Cavallo’s heartbreaking story and his profession, they set out to unmask Chips the Clown.
Through a series of interviews with clients, fellow clowns, families, and children, Patchwork gathers together the different pieces of Cavallo and Clown Chips to show that the joyful clown and the grieving man are two sides of the same person. “I hope viewers recognize the spaces between the cracks that form the narratives of our life stories,” said Toutaiolepo. “Patchwork shows these cracks and doesn’t judge or try to mend them. Big stories are great, but it’s the smaller ones that we are able to absorb.”
Even more striking than the story is the beautiful way in which it is told. We watch the intimate ritual of Chips putting on and then later removing his makeup to reveal his wrinkles and the fact that he is not always smiling. Interspersed with the footage are stop animation sequences (a specialty of Florio). All in all it is a real visual joy.
Julie Florio has been an intern with Shine Global since January and is currently using her skills at putting together beautiful and heartfelt stories to create a series of webisodes for Shine Global featuring migrant child farmworkers. Stay tuned for news on when this series will premier. Florio is certainly a filmmaker to watch.
Patchwork is now available online for download at Indie Pix. Please visit http://www.indiepixfilms.com/film/4543 to watch this touching and beautiful story.