Uzbekistan, which lies at the heart of the Eurasian continent where the Silk Road once connected China to Europe, has a deeply rooted circus tradition that has thrived from long before the Soviet era to the present. Childhood friends Achat and Tarsun are part of that longstanding tradition. Now in their late 50's, the pair joined the circus as youngsters after a tightrope walker came to their village. Between Heaven and Earth is a beautifully crafted film about the balancing act required of its two subjects under the Uzbek dictatorship that came to power after the fall of the Soviet Union. Once both members of the now outlawed democratic opposition party, ERK, the two friends no longer agree on political issues. Tarsun has left the party, preferring to protect and dedicate himself to his family after a traumatic loss, while Achat puts all his energy into activism despite his family's fears that he will be arrested again. The two men clearly still love and respect each other, but their differing responses to the pressures that the dictatorship exerts on them causes a seemingly unbridgeable rift. Set against the stunning Uzbek landscape, the film weaves mesmerizing imagery from the men's circus performances with interviews and candid moments from their personal lives, showing how the circus, which lies at the root of their deep friendship, is also the forum in which they pursue their divergent endeavors. An enlightening look at a part of the world virtually unknown to Western audiences, this film is also a stirring exploration of the universal difficulty of balancing convictions, commitments, ambitions and friendships.
Born in Rotterdam in 1956, FRANK VAN DEN ENGEL began his career as managing director of Strengholt Televideo. In 1997, he founded the independent documentary production company Zeppers Film and TV, where he has produced over 45 films for theater and TV including Dance Grozny, Dance (Tribeca Film Festival 2003) and Voices of BAM (Tribeca Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Documentary, 2006). He currently splits his time between developing his own film projects and mentoring young directors. His debut film, Normaal - I Always Come Back, was released in 2002.
MASHA NOVIKOVA was born in Moscow in 1956. In 2002 she worked on Dance Grozny, Dance with Jos de Putter, and has just completed a film with him on Aleksandr Litvinenko. Her debut film, Fallen Angel (2005) is about the sex trafficking of Eastern European women.