Documentary Recommendation: Farewell Ferris Wheel (2016)

Quote from Farewell Ferris Wheel by Carnival Owner : “No one has to tell them what to do, how to do it, they start working.”


Writers: Miguel ‘M.i.G’ Martinez and Jamie Sisley

Directors: Miguel ‘M.i.G’ Martinez and Jamie Sisley

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Running Time: 1 hour and 12 minutes


Documentary filmmakers usually sway either for or against the topic they are covering.  I’ve only seen a few documentaries where you are given equal sides to the topic.  By the end of these films, you have to decide what you feel, think, and know to be true and accurate.  Farewell Ferris Wheel delves into the U.S. Carnival industry, covering both owners’ and workers’ struggles and rights in as neutral position as possible.  The workers who construct and tear down the rides are Mexican migrant workers, and are given H-2B guest worker visas.  The carnival owners use these H-2B workers because they can’t get afford or won’t to hire U.S. citizens.  The issue with American workers according to one owner is that they cause problems by not showing up on time and as the days go by the labor force become non-existent.  This points to two things.  One, this is hard manual labor that most people would rather not do or can’t do.  Two, this is hard manual labor with risks that aren’t worth the pay (even with minimum wages although never discussed).  As you watch the work done by these migrant workers, sometimes without electricity in their housing quarters in addition to the lack of sleep, you can’t help but wonder is it worth it?  Many of the workers know this is backbreaking work and still they come back year after year.  This doesn’t mean they love what they do although they put on a nice smile for the camera, but the fact remains they come back the following year if asked because of the limited opportunities in their country.  They are workers who make do with what’s in front of them because they too have mouths to feed.  I’m not sure who was giving the more accurate reading of the economic situation, but an interesting part of this so-called relationship were tactics used by both in order to better their pockets.  The owners had greater access to government policymakers, but on the flip side there were organizations fighting for migrant workers’ human rights.  The issues of H-2B visas begs another bigger question of economic distribution not only in the U.S. but in the world.  While 3.3% of the U.S. population is unauthorized immigrants according to Pew Research in 2016, I find the following statistics much more troublesome.  According to Forbes in 2016, the top three wealthiest men own as much as the bottom 50% of Americans and the richest 5% of Americans own 2/3 of the wealth.  While migrant workers should definitely get paid their due, so should everyone else.  This documentary is worth watching and is on Netflix. 

I rate Farewell Ferris Wheel Four Fingers of GREAT at 90%


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