Cheeky and full of life, 20-year-old Tairo has grown up in the circus, taming his beloved but aging big cats and building a life with beautiful contortionist Wendy. When a cherished childhood amulet goes missing — a bent iron rod given to him by 1957 Mister Universe Arthur Robin, aka "Black Hercules" — Tairo sets out to find the legendary strongman and recapture a magical moment of his childhood. As we watch Tairo rekindle friendships with fellow circus folk, the film provides a warm and intimate look at Italy's rich, vibrant working class. Like their 2009 festival sensation LA PIVELLINA, directors Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel's newest film is a lively hybrid of documentary and fiction, casting an empathetic eye toward a disappearing way of life. Whether introducing us to a chimp who worked with Fellini or lighting candles to ward off the malocchio, MISTER UNIVERSO weaves its spell with good humor and surprising turns. — Cedar Sherbert
Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel's debut feature LA PIVELLINA (2009) won the Europa Cinemas Label at the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes, and was Austria's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® entry in 2011. This year's MISTER UNIVERSO won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Leopard.