Between Heaven and Earth

a film by Frank van den Engel & Masha Novikova
the friendship between two circus artistes in Uzbekistan is put under pressure of cause of opposite political choices.

The circus was the only entertainment on a journey of many months along the ancient Silk Road from Europe to China. In Uzbekistan, currently a dictatorship, the circus is as alive as it was in the days of Genghis Khan. The circus acts, too, have changed little. Two circus artists are forced to choose between continuing the old circus tradition and politics. Their different choices seriously affect their lifelong friendship

Another half hour could easily be added to Between Heaven and Earth - Variety

Between Heaven and Earth weaves an exquisite tale of understanding and hope amidst the extraordinary lives of these humble performers - Slashfilm

‘Tussen hemel en aarde’ is weer zo’n pareltje van een documentaire die harmonieus balanceert tussen een schets van het leven van traditionele circusartiesten, een circusvoorstelling op zich, en de dramatiek van de gewetensvolle kleine man die tegen de heersende politieke stroom durft op te roeien - cinemagazine

Resultaat is een film vol acrobatiek, politiek en pure krachtpatserij - Trouw

About the director

Frank Van den Engel
In 1997 Frank van den Engel started independent documentary production company Zeppers Film & TV as executive producer. He produced almost two hundred films, for theatre and television. Some of these have been awarded at prestigious festivals around the world: Andre Hazes – she believes in me (John Appel, Opening Film IDFA 1999), Dans, Grozny Dans (Jos de Putter, 2002), Voices of Bam (Aliona van der Horst, Grand Jury Award Tribeca 2006), Stranger in Paradise (Guido Hendrikx, Opening Film IDFA 2016) and Love is Potatoes (Aliona van der Horst, Golden Calf 2018). Nowadays he combines production work with the development and realization of his own film projects, and with the coaching of first-time directors. His debut Normaal – I always come back was theatrically released in 2002. Between Heaven and Earth was released in the cinema in 2007. His 2009 documentary about Dutch photographer Gerard Fieret: Photo & Copyright by G.P. Fieret was nominated for Best Dutch Documentary at the Netherlands Film Festival.


Masja Novikova
Masha Novikova was born in 1956 in Moscow, USSR. She studied pedagogy at the University of Moscow. And later worked as a teacher Russian language and literature. In Kazachstan she worked as a director-assistant in a German drama theater. Short before the fall of the Berlin Wall she came to the Netherlands, since then she has been living and working in Amsterdam. First Masha Novikova worked as interpretot and as a teacher Russian. She also worked as a guide in the 'Szar Peter House' in Zaandam. Later Masha started to work as an executive producer for Dutch television. At the same time she studied by Stefan Mayakowski at the 'Kunstweb' camera, script writing and filmdirection. Since the year 2000 she also started to film herself, she worked with mini-dv as the second film photographer for several documentaries. In 2005 she directed her first film 'Fallen Engel', documentary about traffic in East -European women who were brought to the Netherland to work as prostitues. Before making 'Three Comrades' Masha Novikova did some earlier work in Chechnya for documentary by Leo de Boer entitled 'Train to Grozny'. That was in April 2000, just after Grozny's total destruction. Driven by a feeling of shame about her own country, she has felt very much involved with the Chechnyan war ever since. In 2002 Masha Novikova did some shooting in Grozny for Jos de Putter's film 'Dance Grozny Dance'.In addition, she did several film reports on Chechnya. She also worked in 2003 with Amnesty International on a film about Lidya Yusupova, who won the Martin Ennals prize in Geneve.


directed by
Frank van den Engel & Masja Novikova

written by
Frank van den Engel

Oleg Klimov
Masja Novikova

director of photography
Melle van Essen

Sander Roeleveld

sound recording
Pieter Guyt

edited by
Stefan Kamp

sound mix
Yves De Mey

original music by
Hans Helewaut 

Awards & festivals

International Jury - Documentary Prize of the Official Selection FIAAP - International Film Festival of Performing Arts
University Jury - Documentary Prize FIAAP - International Film Festival of Performing Arts

world premiere Rotterdam Film Festival
official selection Tribeca International Film Festival
official selection Golden Apricot
official selection Melbourne International Filmfestival
official selection Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival
official selection Vancouver International Film Festival
official selection Sevilla Festival de Cine
official selection 1001 Belgesel Film Festival
official selection 
official selection Watch Docs Festival
official selection One World IFF
official selection Rassegna SIEFF int Ethnografic FF
official selection FIAAP - International Film Festival of Performing Arts
official selection Taiwan International Documentary Festival
official selection Document 6 International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival

Production Details

a Zeppers Film production

in co-production with
Off World

with the support from
Dutch Cultural Broadcast Promotion Fund
Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF|FILM)