BETH B filmmaker/artist
Beth B’s career has been characterized by work that challenges society’s conventions, and that focuses on social issues and human rights. Throughout her prolific career, B has produced over 29 films within the documentary, experimental, and narrative genres as well as having produced interdisciplinary work that has been shown in galleries and museums throughout the world.
Beth B exploded onto the New York art and film scene in the late ‘70s, after receiving her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1977. Her films and artwork have been the subjects of several books and documentaries, including Blank City; The Cinema of Transgression; Art, Performance, Media; and No Wave: Underground ’80; Downtown Film and TV Culture; and Super 8: An Illustrated History. As a filmmaker, Beth B has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hayward Gallery, the Wexner Center, and many other museums and galleries. Her films have been shown at film festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Locarno Film Festival, SXSW, DOC NYC, IFFR, and the Berlinale.
The Museum of Modern Art celebrated Beth B’s 45-year film career with a full retrospective, which opened on September 13th, 2022, showcasing the newly restored 4K masters of her two big-screen narrative films: Two Small Bodies (1994), based on Neal Bell’s play and starring Suzy Amis and the late Fred Ward, and Salvation! (1987), a sharp-edged social satire with Stephen McHattie, Viggo Mortensen and Exene Cervenka that prefigured pop culture’s fascination with televangelism. The retrospective series pays particular attention to B’s documentaries, a form in which she excels along unconventional lines.
In 2022, New York University Fales Library acquired B’s entire archive for preservation and research and in 2021, Kino Lorber Distribution acquired B’s entire catalog of films for restoration and distribution along with B’s documentary feature film, Lydia Lunch – The War Is Never Over.
B has received significant honors and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 2022, “Made in NY” Women’s Film, TV and Theatre Fund 2019, New Jersey State Council on the Arts 2016, the National Endowment for the Arts (multiple years), the Lannan Foundation 1998, the New York State Council on the Arts 1982, the Jerome Foundation 1995, Anonymous was a Woman 1991, Bohen Foundation 1990, the Public Art Fund 1990, Creative Time Citywide 1990, and New York Foundation for the Arts 1978, 1984. B's 2019 feature documentary, Lydia Lunch – The War Is Never Over received a NY Times Critic’s Pick in 2021, won the Int’l Jury Award at Barcelona In-Edit Festival, was nominated for the IDA Award for Best Music Documentary, and was invited to SXSW in 2020. B’s feature narrative film, Two Small Bodies, was nominated for the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno Int’l Film Festival in 1993. Her feature documentary, EXPOSED, was nominated for the Teddy Award at the Berlin Int’l Film Festival as well as the Metropolis Grand Jury Prize at DOC NYC in 2013.
Critics at the New York Times, Rolling Stone, LA Times, Village Voice and other outlets have praised her work as "compelling” ”captivating” “unflinching” “extraordinary” “a tour de force” and have written that “her videos are haunting and her feature films brilliant.”
• Call Her Applebroog received an NYT Critic’s Pick and its world premiere at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
• Salvation! had its world premiere at the 1987 Berlin International Film Festival.
• Breathe In/Breathe Out had its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2000.
• Visiting Desire premiered at the 1996 Toronto Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival.
• Voices Unheard premiered in 1998 at The Museum of Modern Art.
Beth B’s films have been the subject of retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; the International Film Festival Rotterdam; The Metrograph Theater, NYC; London’s National Film Theater; the Montreal Festival Du Nouveau Cinema; Lisbon’s Nucleo Dos Cineastas Independentes; the Danish Film Institute and other venues.
B has served on the dramatic film competition juries at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and on the documentary jury at the Tel Aviv Film Festival. Her screenplay Life in Luxury was selected for the Sundance Screenwriter's Lab.
Concurrent with her independent projects, B has produced and directed documentary television productions and mounted large-scale media installations as well as creating, Take My Breath Away, a theatrical production for BAM’s Artist in Action series. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Biennial, the Pompidou Center, Deitch Projects, and PPOW Gallery. Click here for a complete list of screenings & exhibitions.
In 2022, B directed the theater production, 52 Jokers, at the Kampnagel Sommerfest, Hamburg; Noorderzon, Groningen; Pop Kultur, Berlin; and the Volkstheater, Vienna. She then went on to curate 10 days of events at *A Family of Humans Festival in La Chaux De Fonds, Switzerland.
In 2017, Beth B joined forces with Lydia Lunch to create the feature documentary, LYDIA LUNCH - The War Is Never Over, a retrospective of Lunch’s confrontational, acerbic and always electric spoken word performance and music. The film frames Lunch’s work through the lens of the various philosophical themes that have obsessed her for years to enlighten and empower women to voice the unheard and to break the cycle of violence toward women throughout the world. The film has played in over 50 theaters and is available on VOD and DVD. It received a Made In NY subways and bus shelters campaign grant advertising the film widely in the MTA. A companion book of the same name was released by Jawbone Press.
In 2016, B premiered her feature-length documentary film, Call Her Applebroog, at the Museum of Modern Art in the DocFortnight Series and is being distributed by Zeitgeist Films. An intimate portrait of Beth B’s mother and renowned artist Ida Applebroog, the film garnered features in the New York Times Arts and Leisure Section and VOGUE Magazine. The overwhelming critical acclaim has led to international screenings and a domestic theatrical release.
This deeply personal portrait of acclaimed New York–based artist Ida Applebroog was shot with mischievous reverence by her filmmaker daughter, Beth B. Born in the Bronx to Orthodox Jewish émigrés from Poland, Applebroog, now in her 80s, looks back at how she expressed herself through decades of drawings and paintings, as well as her private journals. With her daughter’s encouragement, she investigates the stranger that is her former self, a woman who found psychological and sexual liberation through art. As Beth B finds a deeper understanding of her mother as a human being, Applebroog shares a newfound appreciation for her own provocative work. -The Museum of Modern Art
In 2013, B produced and directed Exposed, a non-fiction feature film about 8 underground performance artists who use their bodies in provocative and comedic ways to redefine notions of “normal” and societal attitudes toward gender. After its U.S. premiere at DOC NYC in 2013, Exposed screened at the Museum of Modern Art and was distributed domestically and internationally. Exposed went on to show in over 20 countries worldwide in Human Rights Film Festivals, Queer Film Festivals, and Women’s Film Festivals including the Nuremberg Human Rights Film Festival and this human world film festival in Austria. Exposed is now available in DVD and digital distribution through Kino Lorber.
From 2001 to 2008, B produced and directed television documentaries including: Positive ID: The Case Files of Anthony Falsetti, Family Secrets, The Black Widower, Pattern of Deception, Death of a Rising Star, Crimes Scenes Uncovered, Badge of Dishonor, A Daughter’s Love and An Unlikely Terrorist. B worked as a Senior Series Producer on a six-part reality television series, Crime Scenes Uncovered, about the “real CSI” shot in Miami for TLC. She produced and directed two of the episodes. For ZDF/Germany, ARTE/France, the Sundance Channel and PBS, she has created various short subject documentaries, including Breasts for PBS's Egg the Arts Show, segments for Nerve for the HBO series and website; High Heel Nights for ARTE/France, and segments for AfterEffects, the Sundance Channel series.
Beth B’s feature narrative film, Two Small Bodies (1994), based on Neal Bell’s play and starring Fred Ward and Suzy Amis, was celebrated worldwide being featured at the Locarno, Toronto, and Sundance film festivals. Salvation! (1987), a sharp-edged social satire starring Viggo Mortensen and Exene Cervenka, prefigured pop culture's fascination with televangelism and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and played theatrically worldwide.
B’s feature documentary film, Breathe In/Breathe Out, (a co-production with Open City/Blow up, Dune and ZDF Television) had its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2000 and was broadcast on German, Swiss and Austrian Television. The film is about war and trauma. Also, B produced and directed Voices Unheard a riveting in-depth documentary about the incarceration and treatment of juvenile sex offenders, which premiered in 1998 at The Museum of Modern Art and The Walter Reade Theater, NYC. Visiting Desire, a feature documentary, first premiered at the 1996 Toronto Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival, and was then released theatrically. B creates an unconventional documentary where people come together to confront gender realities and fantasies.
B has produced and directed a series of films and tapes that merge documentary and fiction. The award-winning video Belladonna, a collaboration with artist Ida Applebroog, is a brutal testimony on violence, sex, and family relations. It premiered in 1989 at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts and was invited to participate in the Whitney Bienale. Thanatopsis, written by and featuring Lydia Lunch, is a disturbing yet poetic meditation on war and personal resistance and premiered in 1991 at The Kitchen, NYC. Stigmata (1991), a documentary on drug abuse and recovery, articulates internal anguish with a vividness that is both haunting and chilling. In 1994, B directed High Heel Nights for ARTE TV in France, a documentary about the transformation of the body.
Over the years, Beth B has received numerous commissions. In 2001, she created the multi-media installation, Hysteria, for the “Spectacular Bodies” show at the Hayward Gallery in London, which included video, sculpture, and performance. In 1991, B received a commission from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Center in Paris, to produce a one-minute videotape Amnesia, as part of the international “Trans-Voices” project. B produced and directed the media/theater production, Take My Breath Away, which was commissioned by the 1997 Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival and performed at PS122. In 1993, B created two installations at the Wexner Center for the Arts entitled Under Lock and Key and Amnesia. Amnesia combines photography and video challenging stereotypical notions of prejudice. Under Lock and Key, which combines an imposing steel sculpture with audio recordings and video projections, is a testament to intolerance and self-determination. Other commissions include: Out of Sight/Out of Mind, a video sculpture installation at Temple Gallery, Philadelphia (1995); and A Holy Experiment, an on-site installation commissioned for the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia (1995).
In 1990, B produced two public art projects. The bilingual newspaper, Day of Hope took the form of a newspaper fashioned after the New York Post; however it reported only hopeful news, distributed in 50 “Free Paper” newspaper dispensers in NYC. Creative Time CityWide funded Surgeon General’s Warning, a bilingual series of silkscreen posters that the artist designed and posted on the streets of NY confronting touchy contemporary issues like abortion, censorship, AIDS, racism, and homelessness.
Beth B’s films have been the subject of retrospectives at the International Film Festival Rotterdam; The Metrograph Theater, NYC; London’s National Film Theater; Nouveau Cinema de Montreal; Lisbon’s Nucleo Dos Cineastas Independentes; Lausanne Underground Film Festival; Anthology Film Archives; and the Danish Film Institute. She has also served on the competition juries at the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto Int’l Film Festival and was invited to participate in the 1990 Sundance Writers Lab.
In addition to her film and art productions, Beth B has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and Montclair State University. Beth B is currently developing the feature documentary HOT! and the independent scripted series, Free Fall.