Jamie Sisley and Miguel MiG Martinez
AFI Docs 2016
Denver, Virginia, Margaret Mead, Napa Valley, Big Sky Docs, Salem, Atlanta,
A behind-the-scenes look at the plight of Mexican migrant carnival workers.
Once a thriving American entertainment industry, the carnival has been on the decline for decades. Faced with an ever-shrinking pool of skilled workers, owners have taken to employing Mexican migrant workers using the H-2B visa for temporary, non-agricultural work. While workers are able to work legally in the US, for far more than they might earn in Mexico, they must separate from family for months, and are often provided with substandard living conditions and wages. Over several years, Sisley and Martinez’s thoughtful, understated film focus on a number of workers, as well as the ex-carnival owner who has turned recruiting H-2B workers into a cottage industry, as they reckon with the challenges of their jobs, and with an activist movement that seeks to curtail the use of the visa program and to raise carnival worker pay, citing protecting both migrants from exploitation and American workers from the consequences of deflated wages.