Ai Pioppi

The story of Ai Pioppi, a small, poplar-lined campground outside Treviso, Italy, is the story of one man: Bruno.

Ai Pioppi

The charismatic inventor became the star of a new short film by Coleman Guyon and Luiz Romero.

Ai Pioppi

Ai Pioppi takes an atmospheric look at Bruno's life work: the whimsical amusement park rides he has designed in a dusty workshop and built by hand on the site over decades.

Ai Pioppi

The rides are finely made interpretations of old-school carnival rides, like gyroscopes, Ferris wheels, slides, swings, and more.

Ai Pioppi

After picking up metalworking, Bruno tried his hand at several smaller rides before his ambitions got the best of him.

Ai Pioppi

In 1969, he built his first large ride, a vertiginous iron slide that stretched into the air among the treetops.

Ai Pioppi

All of the rides came out of Bruno's metalwork shop, where he continues to work to this day.

Ai Pioppi

In addition to the rides, there is also an open-air restaurant that seats 500.

Ai Pioppi

He's unsure what will become of the park when he retires, though he hopes it will continue. Ultimately, however, he will concede to fun fair fate: "I can't impose my ideas on my successors ... I would leave that choice to them."

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Watch: An Amusement Park, Entirely Handmade In The Woods Of Italy

The new short doc Ai Pioppi is a charming ride through the fun fair of a magnetic 76-year-old inventor named Bruno.

Forty years ago, self-starter Bruno (as he's known to all, first-name friendly) opened a fledgling restaurant, or osteria, in the wooded region near Treviso, Italy. The way he tells it, the decision was improvisatory: After buying several pounds of sausage links and a few jugs of wine, he set up a grill in the shade of a tree and awaited his first customers. "I wanted to see if we would sell something or if people would come," he says, throwing glances at the camera.

It’s one of many poignant scenes from "Ai Pioppi," a new short film about the eponymous camping grounds in northern Italy created by the now 76-year-old inventor. In addition to the open-air restaurant—people did come, it now seats 500—the camera glimpses the whimsical amusement park rides, all hand-built by Bruno, that are Ai Pioppi’s main draw. The 11-minute short, produced by Coleman Guyon and Luiz Romero for Fabrica, takes an atmospheric tour of the Ai Pioppi carnival.

A giant, impossibly angled iron slide rises above the leaves and disappears into the foliage. Elsewhere, a roller coaster complete with basket-like carts wends its way around trees and shoots down sloped tracks. Another contraption houses the rider inside a grated steel box at the center of a rotating wheel that whooshes through the air.

Bruno constructed the rides over several decades. Scattered amid poplars (the source of the camp’s name), the fun fair has a hallucinatory feel about it, an effect heightened in the film by the gently roving photography.

Much like everything else handmade in those woods, Bruno built the rides on a whim. Propelled by a local blacksmith, he took up metalworking and started applying his new skills around the camp yard. The first rides were meant to draw visitors to the restaurant. Since then, 1969, he’s been gradually expanding the repertoire of Ai Pioppi’s amusements.

"He's clearly a unique character," says Romero, noting how the film's focus shifted from the park's contents to Bruno himself. After meeting the man, it was apparent to the filmmakers that their story had switched subjects. "In the end, the documentary talks more about the person than the place, and how one feeds the other. It’s a risky choice if you think about how incredible the place is, but for us that was the right thing to do."

Photo by Oriol Ferrer Mesià

The idiosyncratic designs of the amusement rides, then, take a backseat to Bruno's magnanimous spirit. The film is essentially about a different kind of "making," one which, in an age of rapid prototyping and Makerbot, seems positively atavistic. "It’s this guy inside his dusty workshop, listening to Italian radio, cutting, welding and painting incredible rides," Romero says. "We wanted to explore and register his thoughts, his process while working, how he dealt with success and failure."

By the film’s end, when Bruno reaffirms his passion to continue his life project, he acknowledges that the future of the park is up in the air and essentially out of his hands. "I wish it could keep running like this," he says. "But I can't impose my ideas on my successors ... I would leave that choice to them."

Make sure you have a look at the film above.

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