Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Watch the Trailer for Local Doc Zacchini: Human Cannonball

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM

This should come as no surprise to anyone, but I love carnies. My grandfather, rest his soul, was a big proponent of traditional American entertainment and instilled in me a deep love for the circus, for sideshows, for daredevils. There's something magical about that pre-mass media style of entertaining that you just can't get from television or a movie, even if that movie is Tod Browning's immortal classic Freaks, which I have watched hundreds (if not thousands) of times. Also, it should go without saying that I'm a big fan of independent filmmaking, especially from locals.

Which is all to say that I flipped my wig when the trailer for Zacchini: Human Cannonball crossed my transom. Directed by Ray Zate — who made the award-winning local hip-hop doc Highway 2 Mars in addition to some great music videos — and executive produced by WKRN's Stephanie Langston, Zacchini a story about the first family of human projectiles and their, ahem, rise and fall in the world of entertainment. Based strictly on the trailer, it looks like it will be visual feast, rife with drama and danger. We're talking about people that launch themselves out of canons for a living, fer cryin' out loud.

Currently in post-production, Zacchini isn't scheduled for any screenings yet , but we'll keep y'all abreast of any forthcoming details. Read Zate's synopsis for the film after the jump.

Zacchini: Human Cannonball
A documentary from Executive Producer Stephanie Langston & Director Ray Zate

There is a crowd of thousands gathered around, waiting with baited breathe, their eyes focused to the spectacle in front of them. A man with a cape waves at the fans cheering in awe and wonder, then the man disappears into a huge metallic object, the thunderous music that was roaring in the background comes to a halt. You can hear the pounding of every heart in the audience, most standing out of wonderment. Then there is a boom and the caped man is in the air. Soaring over one, two, no, THREE Ferris wheels, his eyes focused on the target ahead, the crowds eyes focused on the daredevil above, the net on the bottom awaiting the safe landing of this spectacular stuntman and the thunderous roar of relieved and astonished fans. A man was just shot out of a cannon. This is the world of the Hugo Zacchini, this is the world of the human cannonball.

Zacchini: Human Cannonball tells the story of this legendary family through the eyes of eighty seven year old Hugo Zacchini Jr., the son of the inventor of the act Edmondo Zacchini, and the last living member of the oldest generation of this legendary family to have soared out of a cannon.

It is a story about a family, who at their lowest invented a machine and an act that would change their lives forever and inspire a generation to push their limits, believe in the impossible, defy gravity and ignite a revolution in the great history of daredevils and stuntman.

It was in the 1920s in Cairo, Egypt that Italy's most famous clown Edmondo Zacchini invented the first human cannonball. A vision he had while in the trenches in World War I, with thoughts of propelling a soldier across the battlefield. His first attempt at the contraption failed, leaving Edmondo's leg shattered. While in the hospital, with his family boiling walnuts for soup and struggling to make ends meat, he didn't let go of his dream and perfected the mechanism that would propel his brother, Hugo Zacchini, and generations more, to become master jumpers!

Circus goers marveled at the spectacle of a cannon that fired a human projectile. It was revered as the grandest act and maintained the closing act slot for decades. The Zacchini's pushed themselves beyond their limits, flying over crowds, buildings and eventually flying over Ferris wheels and of course the famed “Double Repeater Cannon,” shooting two bodies out at once. The family caught the eye of John Ringling who brought them to America permanently in 1930 and headlined the renowned Barnum and Bailey Circus. The original daredevils and true starlets of the era, they became celebrity spokesmen for Quaker Puffed Wheat, graced the cover of Time Magazine and eventually inducted into the Barnum and Bailey hall of fame.

Now with modern day technology and entertainment the joy and spectacle of the circus has lost its luster. The cannons of modern generations continue to fire and acts still perform, but for the Zacchini’s their place remains in the halls of history, a time where amongst men they soared above the norm. It is a tale over a century in the making and ready to be told.

This is the story of Zacchini: Human Cannonball.

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