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Who killed Juanita Nielsen?

On July 4th, 1975 Juanita Nielsen, low-income housing activist, style icon and journalist, known for her large beehive hairdo, went to what she believed was a “business meeting” at The Carousel Club, Kings Cross, Sydney and vanished, never to be seen again.

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 12.46.16 pmZanny Begg standing with a 1975 portrait of Juanita Nielsen by David Farrell.
UNSWGALLERIES_MARIABOYADGIS-207Installation shot UNSW Galleries, Sydney Festival, 2019.

Juanita was involved in the Green Bans movement, a powerful 1970s alliance between residents and trade unions, that defended the right of low income communities to live in the inner city of Sydney, particularly in Kings Cross and Woolloomooloo.  She campaigned against the violent eviction of long term tenants on Victoria Street, Kings Cross, who were being pushed out to make way for the construction of high rise apartment blocks. Her struggle revealed dark connections between developers, organised crime, corrupt police officers and state power; her death forming a riddle which lies at the heart of contemporary Sydney.

In The Beehive Zanny Begg has teamed up with software engineer Andy Nicholson to create a randomised non-linear video installation that allows multiple versions of the story to unfold.  There are over 1344 versions of the film, each viewing offering a unique insight into this unsolved mystery.

The Beehive speculates on the circumstances of Nielsen’s murder by presenting 1,344 algorithmically generated possible scenarios, each version pieced together from documentary footage and fictional scenes involving Nielsen (played by various actors). This fragmented, non-linear approach prevents the viewer from seeing the whole picture, or fully resolving their own interpretation of events; after all, the case remains open. What is clear across versions is the connection made between gentrification and colonization, which forms the powerful central message of the work – LAURA FESLIER, ArtAsiaPacific Magazine.

The Beehive won the inaugural  $70,000 ACMI and Artbank commission and premiered at ACMI on July 31, 2018. It had its Sydney premiere in the 2019 Sydney Festival at UNSW Galleries and will be exhibited as part of the group show Haunt at IMA, Brisbane in April 2019. Creative Producer for the project was Philippa Bateman, Enigma Machine Productions.

While The Beehive is the important story of an unsolved murder of someone who spoke truth to power and campaigned against gentrification and the erasure of community, the film’s form makes us do the cognitive work of connecting the pieces and finding patterns. In presenting us with more versions than we will surely watch, and an awareness of material that we will not see, The Beehive highlights not only what can be known, but also what cannot – KIM MUNRO, The Conversation.

The_Beehive.00_16_24_20.Still002Pamela Rabe in The Beehive, still.

In the News:

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 12.26.37 pm

The Lady Vanishes, The Monthly, Steve Dow, 2019
ABC News, January 5, 2019
Radio National Interview, February 7, 2019
The mystery of Juanita Nielsen’s murder is retold – 1344 times: Sydney Morning Herald, July 31, 2018
Opening The Beehive: Broadsheet, Melbourne, August 16, 2018
The Beehive, a documentary in 1,344 versions: The Conversation, Kim Munro, September 18, 2018
Review for Screen Hub, Gina Fairly, January 8, 2019
Mystifying filmic mosaic of Juanita Nielsen’s murder: The Guardian, Andrew Frost, August 2, 2018.
The Beehive, ArtAsiaPacific, Laura Feslier, October 2018.

The Beehive, meanwhile, scores two coups: filming takes place partly inside 202 Victoria Street, with the supportive present-day owner’s permission, while Nielsen’s lover, David Farrell, who was devastated by her murder, is interviewed on camera, and even recreates the phone messages he left for her on the day she disappeared – Steve Dow, The Monthly

Radical Sydney: program of events coordinated by UNSW Galleries to coincide with The Beehive, Sydney Festival, 2019.

0_juanita_house_ext_pb-2_864Production still of Emma Jackson. Photo Philippa Bateman.

Credits:

The Beekeeper
Pamela Rabe

The Juanita’s
Koco Carey, Julie Cooper, Megan Drury, Erica Englert, Amala Groom, Vashti Hughes, Emma Jackson, Jennine Khalik, Ivy D’Orsogna, Maria Tran, Ebube Uba and Amelie Vanderstock

Others

Ester – Bronwyn Penrith

John Glebe – Tim Burns

Debbie – Saoirse Nicholson

 Carousel Club

Frank Theeman – Nicolas Hope

Eddie Trigg – Taylor Wiese

Loretta Crawford – Nyx Calder

Jim Anderson – Sebastian Goldspink

Joe Meissner – Warren Coulton

Policeman – Adam Hilbery

Poker Dealer – Harrison Milas

Showgirl – Teneale Clifford

Interviewees

Julie Bates
Meredith Burgmann
Tyson Koh
David Farrell
Imogen Kelly
Ian Millis

IvyProduction still of Ivy D’Orsonga. Photo by Zanny Begg.

Writer/Director/Editor – Zanny Begg

Producer/Script Editor – Philippa Bateman

Line Producer – Sharon Abela

Director of Photography – Emma Paine

Sound Design – Hugh Fasher

Costume – Matthew Stegh

Make Up – Annette McKenzie

Hair – David Grainger

Composers – Jasmine Guffond and James Brown

Singer: – Mara Knežević

Software Engineer – Andy Nicholson

Bee Handlers – Doug Purdie and Vicky Brown, The Urban Beehive

Bee Photographs – Sam Droege

“Concrete and Glass” written and sung by Mick Fowler, 1973.

An Enigma Machine Production.  A special thanks to all supporters of The Beehive Indiegogo campaign!