Namayca Bauer (19) | France
Namayca Bauer is a Jill-of-all-trades hailing from seven generations in the circus who works with lions, tigers, horses, goats, pigs, and dogs. Her two younger sisters are still in school, while Namayca, her father, and her boyfriend Yoan take care of forty big cats and many smaller animals. The young performer is known for her appearance on a French TV talent show and won second prize in the prominent “New Generation Festival” in Monte Carlo. During filming, Namayca celebrates her 19th birthday. In the film she is shown going about her daily work and training with young and old animals where they previously lived, in an amusement park on the French coast (Bercks-sur-Mer). She has found new love with Yoan, her boyfriend and constant companion. But since he is not from a circus family, conflicts arise with the parents. Since the summer of 2014, the family has had its own animal park and circus show in Saint-Léger, near Paris.
„On the day of my birth the baby lion Sultan was also born. On walks, he lay beside me in the stroller.“
„Circus people don’t like mingling with others and since I was never really together with other children, I went directly from child to adult. I never had any puberty problems.“
Carmen Zander (40) | Germany
The attractive German Tiger Queen Carmen Zander entered the circus following her background in competitive sports. Not being from a circus family, she struggles on her own with the difficulties of everyday circus life, which she skilfully masters with a sexy and humorous touch. She has bottle-fed and trained her five magnificent tigers herself. In Germany, an ongoing campaign to ban predatory animals in circuses jeopardises her career. Carmen is fighting to save her livelihood, in the hopes that she can continue to work with tigers and set up her own tiger park. The film accompanies her during the strenuous circus tour, with long rides in the lorry she drives herself, with frequent assembly and dismantling of the enclosure, her sorrows and joys with her tigers, her daily struggle as a woman in a man’s world and her spectacular appearances performing in the ring. She is accompanied in the winter by her assistant Lars Jünemann, and in the summer by her brother Kai Breuer.
„I think it’s a pity that the men assume a woman in private is like in the show. Men are startled by a dominant woman. Although I am that too.“
„When an animal is sick, I suffer unbelievably and am totally helpless. But I still have to take care of everything, because the tigers want and need lots of care every day.“
Aliya (27) and Nadezhda (60) Takshantova | Russia
Nadezhda Takshantova, who hails from Russia, has fought her way into the circus, after her beginnings as a animal keeper in the Soviet Union. She has now been working as a bear tamer for almost thirty years. She is the only woman in Russia to perform with her own bears, the largest of which is 2.7 metres tall and weighs 580 kilos. She holds the prestigious state-recognised title of “Meritorious Artist of the USSR” and is considered a registered animal tamer in Russia and the former Soviet republics. Nadezhda is married to Tagir Takshantov, a circus clown, and has a 27-year-old daughter.
“Loving animals is not enough. Seeing is not enough, you have to feel it. That needs experience. Because after all it took me a while to become an animal tamer.” „There were times when she was afraid of bears. She was so scared of big bears. I forced her, really forced her to overcome her fear.“
Aliya Takshantova has inherited and learned her mother’s craft. She also owns and trains her own female bear. With her own natural and gentle manner, she has developed a distinct leadership style from that of her mother. Due to the uncertain future of the Russian circus, Aliya is training as a director and choreographer in show business. The film documents the Takshantov family’s arrival at their new circus station in Perm: a state circus featuring a fixed building with rings, stables, many employees and performers. We see them setting up in a new location, caring for the animals, and rehearsing for the premiere. In this stressful phase, conflicts and discussions continually arise among family members in the ring. Her mother Nadezhda wants to gradually withdraw from the limelight, but at the same time she is under great financial pressure and knows that her daughter does not yet have enough experience to take on sole responsibility for all her mother’s animals.
„Human can be callous, bad and aggressive. They kill and injure. But animals are quite divine, supernatural, sacred. They would never hurt anyone deliberately.“
“The bear I work with now, is like a sister to me. She can freak out, be in a bad mood, just like me. With a sister you can argue and fight, and afterwards all is back to normal.”
Anosa Kouta (24) | Egypt and Qatar
Anosa Kouta, the confident blonde Egyptian Lion Princess, is a well-known star in the Arab world and also works as a photo model and stuntwoman alongside her circus performances. Her revealing performances stand in contrast to the current political movement in Egypt. It is unclear whether Anosa can continue living and working as she has done. She has firm roots in the family business: her late grandmother was the first female lion tamer in the Arab world, and she is still known and respected today. Two other family members also carry on the family art form: her father works at the National Circus in Cairo, and her brother has been touring the former Soviet Union for years with eight male lions. Anosa herself goes on tour throughout Egypt and other Arab states. The filming took place during a time of great unrest that shook her homeland. Amidst the chaos, Egyptians hardly attended the circus, so Anosa went on tour with the “Monte Carlo” circus across Arab countries outside Egypt. We filmed her during her stay in Qatar and during Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. She is accompanied by two Egyptian assistants, Shaban and Tarek, whom she has known since childhood. She keeps in touch with her family thousands of kilometres away through phone and Skype.
“With lions it’s like people. There are big lions and little lions, fat and thin, funny and boring. Artistes, and stupid ones. There are good-hearted or cunning ones. These frighten me the most. Lions are like people.”
„The work makes me happy, although it’s tiring. It helps me to get over loneliness and sadness. As soon as I enter the cage, I forget that I’m Anosa. I’m just the lion tamer.“