The following movie was screened at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

Between Heaven and Earth

Between Heaven and Earth
World Documentary Competition
2006, Netherlands
Dir: Frank van den Engel, Masja Novikova

In Uzbekistan, the circus is long-standing tradition, highly regarded as an important part of Uzbekistani society. Between Heaven and Earth takes a glimpse at the lives of two circus families, with two very distinct positions on life. The heads of the families, Achat and Tursun Ali, have been dear friends for years. Tursun Ali actually trained with Achat to become a “strong man.” These men have a very high opinion of each other, and understand what each has gone through in their tumultuous lives.

Both men were members of the ERK party, which was in direct opposition to the government in power at that time. And both men suffered due to their affiliation with the party. Achat saw how his freedom of expression was silenced and he was sent to jail for two years, while Tursun Ali saw how his son unexpectedly drowned, an incident many believed involved foul play. After the death of his son, Tursun Ali leaves the party, but his relationship doe not become strained with Achat. They remain good friends throughout.

For Tursun Ali, the circus can only exist in peace. People go to see him and his family perform because they want to enjoy themselves and forget about their worries. If one is constantly preoccupied with matters of unrest and turbulence, then he or she cannot fully commit himself to the mentality and ideals of the circus.

The joyous families present their humble lives, not just as circus performers, but also as people trying to live peacefully. We see them enjoy gatherings and laugh when the good times roll. A real treat is presented when we see them perform in front of large crowds, eager to see the displays of strength, prowess, and stamina.  The film has a “slice of life” feel to it when we are with both families.

The daughter of Achat, a tightrope walker, shares her sadness of always having to perform and not having enough time to socialize and meet boys. Tursun Ali’s middle son gets ready to wed his beloved, and the ceremony is one of utter celebration and harmony. The small children in both families begin to learn the ways of performing and get their training on the tightrope and with the strong man’s weights.

A nice film on the traditions of a people not frequently heard of. Between Heaven and Earth weaves an exquisite tale of understanding and hope amidst the extraordinary lives of these humble performers.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

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