Belly (Escape Under the Big Top)
The Golden Age of German circus spanned the 1870s to just after World War I. In 1918, Jewish involvement in German circus was mostly dominated by family-run enterprises owned by their Jewish performers. The Strassbergers, Blumenfelds and Lorches to name a few, were all renowned circus dynasties. As the National Socialist Party grew in strength, Jewish circus owners and artists, because of their success, visibility and versatility, were easily targeted and made to fail. Some left Germany to perform elsewhere; many stayed and, ultimately, became part of the more than six million Jews and their families who perished. In 1941, Irene Danner, a young circus performer and descendant of the Lorch family, approached Adolph Althoff, a descendant of the Althoff circus dynasty harking back to the 17th century, hoping to join his show. Well-aware of Danner’s Jewish background, Althoff agreed to take Danner on under an assumed name. Danner’s journey is one of many in Belly, which tells the tale of unbreakable circus family bonds, regardless of religion.
About the Filmmaker
Erik Greenberg Anjou, Producer/Writer
Erik Greenberg Anjou is a native of Abington, PA and a graduate of Middlebury College (B.A., American Literature), Northwestern University (M.A., Film) and the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies (Directing Fellow). Over the last thirty years he has developed a wide-ranging body of work as a writer, producer and director that spans both feature-length fiction and documentary films, with a particular passion for Jewish stories. On the documentary front, Erik is in post-production with his fifth feature-length project. The previous four films – “A Cantor’s Tale (2005), “8 – Ivy League Football and America” (2008), “The Klezmatics – On Holy Ground” (2010), and “Deli Man” (2015) – have starred luminaries such as Tommy Lee Jones, Larry King, Jerry Stiller, Fyvush Finkel and Brian Dennehy. Collectively, the films have screened theatrically, on PBS and HBO, Delta Airlines and Air Canada, Polish and Israeli television, and at more than 200 international film festivals. On the narrative front, Erik wrote and directed “Road To Ruin” (Canal Plus) and “the cool surface” (Columbia TriStar). His commissioned screenplay, “You Shall Not Kill” remains in development with producers Rony Yacov and Thomas Schuly (“Alexander,” “The Name of the Rose,” “Adventures of Baron Munchausen”). He has additionally collaborated with Mr. Schuly on the remake of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece, “Metropolis.” Erik’s current projects include “The Favor” with Philly Special Productions & Dan Kurtz, and “Belly” with co-producer Linda Shrier Schiffer.
Linda Shrier Schiffer, Producer
Linda has been involved in circus, although not as a performer, for more than 30 years. Her mother was a clown, and both her children are currently with circuses: her daughter as an aerialist and wire walker in Europe, and her son as the assistant head rigger with Cirque de Soleil’s Kurios: Cabinet of Kuriosities. Both children were with Circus Smirkus, Vermont’s youth circus and the only U.S. based summer youth circus to tour under a big top. This is Linda’s first endeavor in film.
Linda has an extensive background in public relations, marketing, market research, and new business development. She has been an advertising radio copywriter, news reporter (WDEL Radio, Wilmington, DE); director of Public Affairs at The Medical Center of Delaware, now Christiana Care (Newark, DE) and Franklin Square Hospital Center (Baltimore, MD); and worked with the State of Maryland’s Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. She spent several years in Israel working in new product development for emerging companies and returned to the United States where she worked for Fletcher CSI (Williston, VT) as a senior analyst and team leader doing competitive research analysis for a list of Fortune 500 companies and later with Middlebury College in their residential life area.
Linda was born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up in Wilmington, DE. She has both her undergraduate (BA 1970) and master’s degrees (MA Communications 1981) from the University of Delaware. She is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and was elected to Who’s Who in Advertising. She served on the board of Jewish Family Services (Baltimore, MD); the United Way of Addison County (VT) as a member of the board, as well as its president. She currently volunteers for its Community Impact Funding Committee. Linda served on the board of Circus Smirkus and served as its chair for several years. She also was on the board of the New England Center for Circus Arts (Brattleboro, VT) during which time they broke ground for what is believed to be the first dedicated building to circus arts complete with an indoor flying trapeze rig. She is currently on the board of Porter Medical Center (Middlebury, VT).
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