Directed by: Frank van den Engel, Masja Novikova | 72 minutes | documentary | Featuring: Achat Nabiev, Tursun Ali Mamadzhonov, and their family
‘Between Heaven and Earth’ is an extremely atmospheric documentary that is a mixture of magnificent recordings of open air circus performances in the beautiful (mountain) landscapes of Uzbekistan and interviews with mainly Achat and Tursun Ali (the main characters) about their lives and political circumstances. in which they must maintain themselves. Uzbekistan is no longer a communist since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the old communist rulers have only changed hands and are also the new ‘notables’. Uzbekistan is still governed by a regime with dictatorial characteristics. In this documentary, the right balance has been found between circus and politics. This may be due to the fact that both often balance on the tightrope and sometimes need a safety net.
The film’s main characters are Achat and Tursun Ali, who have always been friends and who used to be together in a political movement, the ECA. Since their early childhood they have been active in the itinerant circus life. Together they shared a dream of a circus life, but also the dream of a fairer and better life for the residents of Uzbekistan. However, the political reality has become sinister, there is now another dictatorship after communism that is putting the opposition under pressure by all kinds of means. Achat has spent more than two years in jail for his political activities and Tursun Ali has lost a son under unexplained circumstances who drowned while swimming alone in a river somewhere. Normally his son never swam in a river because he could not swim.
This history has had a major impact on the relationships between Achat and Tursun Ali. Tursun Ali has let go of politics and only wants to deal with his circus, he leaves the political circumstances for what they are. He just wants to live in peace without being bothered.
Achat is still politically active and is constantly hindered by those activities. He cannot stomach the injustice that prevails and is willing to accept the disadvantages, including imprisonment. The way in which Achat presents his ideas testifies to moral courage and great wisdom. Here too he balances on the tightrope. In the dictatorship, however, no safety net is used for those who fall. Besides the way in which Achat and Tursun Ali philosophize about how to deal with politics and its excesses, we follow these people and their families in their daily performances in the street circus. Street performances are the only way of performing for such artists and artists, they have no money for a circus tent. The tradition in such countries is entirely focused on performances in the open air and then going around with the cap among the spectators. These are often destitute and can hardly make a financial contribution.
The film adaptations of these street performances are particularly atmospheric. The classic strongman who juggles with weights of 32 kilos as if they were tennis balls, the powerhouse who knows how to stop two cars with his teeth or muscles. No structured recordings full of sound effects and tricks with light or other aids, but the real circus pur sang with the strong man and the balancing artists. The camera work here is of great class, the atmosphere that prevails during such performances is tangibly conveyed, set against magnificent landscapes. You would wish to sit among these spectators and experience the performance. The recordings of the tightrope walker, Achat’s daughter, running high in the air over the tightrope, sometimes with her nephew on her shoulders, are of great class and breathtakingly beautiful. That daughter in itself makes a special contribution to this film. She talks candidly about her existence and actually dreams much more of a normal existence outside the circus, in which she is married, has children, is allowed to grow fat and probably has a husband who forbids her from working in a circus.
‘Between Heaven and Earth’ is another gem of a documentary that balances harmoniously between a sketch of the life of traditional circus artists, a circus performance in itself, and the drama of the conscientious little man who dares to compete against the prevailing political current. rowing. Magnificent camerawork and wonderful music. Cinephiles, fans of atmospheric street circus and realistic travel documentaries, or rather: highly honored audience, will see!