Documentary shortlisted by SBS tells story of a show that must go on

Michael Weaver 25 February 2021 25
Elwin Bell Jnr from documentary 'The Carnival'.

Elwin Bell Jnr as shown in the documentary, The Carnival, by Batemans Bay filmmaker Isabel Darling. Photo: Supplied.

A documentary made by a Batemans Bay filmmaker about keeping Australia’s oldest show on the road is one of five shortlisted by SBS as part of its Australia Uncovered series exploring diversity and equality in contemporary Australia.

The Carnival, directed by Isabel Darling, is a six-year labour of love that tells the story of Queanbeyan’s Bell family which has run Bell’s Amusements for more than 100 years.

Isabel tells Region Media the short film is a “fly-on-the-wall documentary of a family drama set in the backdrop of a carnival”.

“Watching this family over six years, we saw babies become children and teenagers become men,” she says. “We saw the challenges they faced during the bushfires and then COVID-19.”

Elwin and Selina Bell and the Bell’s Amusements entourage are normally following the show circuit 50 weeks of the year through Australia to places in Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and Northern Territory. It is an institution at Batemans Bay during the Christmas holidays.

The Black Summer bushfires put the operation on hold and the COVID-19 pandemic almost put a complete stop to it. But the Bell family has proved the show must go on.

Selina and Elwin Bell, with Sean wearing dagwood dogs T-shirt at Queanbeyan Showground.

Selina and Elwin Bell, with Sean, who loves dagwood dogs, at Queanbeyan Showground in 2020. Photo: Michael Weaver.

Isabel, who owns production company Torchlight Media, had local support from Far South Films in Bega to make the documentary and has travelled to most parts of Australia with Bell’s Amusements. In Katherine, in the Northern Territory, she and her own family became ‘honourary showies’ when they stayed onsite with the carnival crew during filming.

“My son was running around getting free fairy floss and popcorn,” says Isabel. “They’re just such characters. All of them are so lovely and in getting to know them, I’ve learnt so much about them and now I trust them as if they are my own family. Hopefully they trust me the same.

“I was filming them while I was pregnant and have filmed them with a newborn, too.”

Selina Bell with kids on trampoline.

Selina Bell and the next generation from Bell’s Amusements during the filming of documentary The Carnival. Photo: Supplied.

The Carnival is one of five documentaries ranging from one hour to feature length that have been shortlisted by SBS for its second series of Australia Uncovered. The five documentaries will also participate in a live pitching session with the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) for a share of development funding from SBS.

Joseph Maxwell, head of documentaries at SBS, says they received a fantastic response to their call out for Australia Uncovered.

“The shortlist reflects the depth and diversity of the submissions received, and the kind of unique Australian stories and voices that are at the heart of this strand,” he says. “We are looking forward to the live pitching session at AIDC 2021.”

Isabel says she is passionate about telling regional stories and is also working on another short film with a local NSW South Coast crew due for release in March 2021.

Thunderbolt carnival ride at night.

The famous Thunderbolt ride lights up during The Carnival. Photo: Supplied.

She says The Carnival is in “with a big shot” of obtaining further funding.

Isabel also has a vision for the full-length film being shown as part of the Bell’s Amusements carnivals as they tour Australia once again.

“I’ve always loved filming landscapes and I’m finding that a lot of my work is really reflecting the local landscapes and a sense of place,” she says. “That’s what I love about The Carnival as a documentary.

“I’ve been able to film some of the most incredible places and the most photogenic action of the rides and the lights at these places. It’s been incredible to be a part of it.”

Original Article published by Michael Weaver on About Regional.


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25 Responses to Documentary shortlisted by SBS tells story of a show that must go on
Cristy Khan Cristy Khan 11:00 am 04 Mar 21

Sonja Holley should be interesting

Emily Vandenberg Emily Vandenberg 10:46 am 02 Mar 21

Luke this looks interesting

Lance Smith Lance Smith 8:34 am 02 Mar 21

The story can only be good. The Bells are a top mob. ✅👋

Sarah Henderson-Smith Sarah Henderson-Smith 8:10 am 02 Mar 21

I hope this gets selected by SBS. A great family with a fascinating story. Kind, hardworking, genuine Aussies.

Brett Lever Brett Lever 6:35 am 02 Mar 21

Ashley SmithSmith let Lance know

Catherine Clift Catherine Clift 6:22 am 02 Mar 21

Natalie Ware Lisa Kelly Bells memories😊

Sarah Grainger Sarah Grainger 8:37 pm 01 Mar 21

Recognise anyone? Jessica Kylie Dee Thomson

    Dee Thomson Dee Thomson 10:49 pm 01 Mar 21

    Sarah Grainger would really like to watch that story!

Claudia Wheatley Claudia Wheatley 8:11 pm 01 Mar 21

These are some of the hardest working people I know. Get behind them, they are honest people who help anyone.

David Elward David Elward 6:14 pm 01 Mar 21

Good people, a hard working family. Claudia Elward

Tanya Ghenossis Tanya Ghenossis 5:48 pm 01 Mar 21

Georgina Papoutsi that softly lilting musical themed ride 😂

    Georgina Papoutsi Georgina Papoutsi 6:06 pm 01 Mar 21

    Tanya Ghenossis I’ve still got whiplash

Nathan Rudrum Nathan Rudrum 3:49 pm 01 Mar 21

Nathan Paj check it out

Mark Reedy Mark Reedy 1:23 pm 01 Mar 21

Sascha Zsigg could be interesting...

Jenny Page Jenny Page 11:40 am 01 Mar 21

When and where do we get to see it?

Jackie Hearn Jackie Hearn 11:04 am 01 Mar 21

Generations follow on .......

Jackie Hearn Jackie Hearn 11:02 am 01 Mar 21

Brilliant ..... Well deserved

Great Family .........

steve2020 steve2020 11:30 pm 28 Feb 21

Very proud of SBS; the true national Australian and diplomatic multicultural broadcaster for some decades now, with programming and documentaries like this, for example. I wish I could say the same for ABC that is sadly tainted by biased politics in the news department causing tensions and resentments. I think SBS try their utmost to retain neutrality on political issues under great difficulty and the hazards of geopolitics, and the same can’t be said for ABC unfortunately that kowtows greatly to their union and union Labor agendas. It shows maturity by SBS. I have great respect for ABC general programming and its history, but not for their news and current affairs unfortunately. ABC could learn a thing or two from SBS.

    JS9 JS9 9:12 am 02 Mar 21

    Yawn. It has been shown time and time again that the overwhelming majority of ‘charges’ bought against the ABC by in general a certain segment of the population have zero to no basis….. people looking for so called outcomes conveniently ignore the rest of the time when arguably plenty of time is spent trying too hard to placate a small proportion of the population.

Chris Quinn Chris Quinn 11:25 pm 28 Feb 21

I used to work for them ages ago

Zac Hain Zac Hain 8:38 pm 28 Feb 21

Tim Moore I wonder if we can watch it backwards in double speed? 🤔

    Tim Moore Tim Moore 8:41 pm 28 Feb 21

    Zac Hain throw your hands in the air and see what happens?

    Zac Hain Zac Hain 8:48 pm 28 Feb 21

    Tim Moore it’ll be hard to hear what’s happening if you scareeeaaammmm

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