Amid bushfires, the pandemic and punters’ changing tastes, the family behind the Bells Family Carnival fight to preserve the attraction’s century-long legacy.
The Bells Family Carnival is a sixth-generation family business, and all year round, across Australia, the Bells drive a 30-strong fleet of trailers containing the vast disassembled rides they’ll rebuild by hand come rain, hail or shine. The shrieks and giggles escaping from visitors flung high into the air, in circles and upside down are all that matter to 54-year-old patriarch Elwin, for whom there is no better life. But whereas some of his children share his sentiments, others dream of a different path. Meanwhile, rising costs, unreliable insurance, unpredictable patronage, the bushfires and COVID-19 complicate the Bells’ struggle to keep the operation afloat.
Debut feature director Isabel Darling spent seven years following the Bells and admits to having felt “tempted to drop it all and run away with them at times”. Filled with big-hearted wonder, the resulting film observes moments both intimate and intense while situating the Bells’ plight as part of the broader tradition of the carnival – especially in a world where new technologies have changed our understanding of leisure and enjoyment.
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