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A bluesy ballad tells the story of Old Bet, the first circus elephant in the US

In 1806, Hachaliah Bailey, a farmer in Somers, New York, bought an elephant to help plow his farm. He paid $1,000 and named her Old Bet. He soon realised that he could make more money from her as a paid attraction, so he began travelling the country with Old Bet and charging curious onlookers 10 cents for a rare glimpse. Structured around a bluesy country ballad by the US composer Sam Saper, this film from the US animator Lynn Tomlinson recalls Old Bet’s tale from the imagined perspective of the farmer’s dog. Via distinctive handcrafted animations made with clay-on-glass and oil pastels, Tomlinson brings a mournful sense of pathos to the story of the first circus elephant in the United States, while hinting more broadly at the tragic centuries-long history of exotic animal exploitation for the sake of human entertainment.

Director: Lynn Tomlinson

Composer: Sam Saper

4 October 2021

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