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.
Zanny Begg standing with a 1975 portrait of Juanita Nielsen by David Farrell.
Installation 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.
Pamela Rabe in The Beehive, still.
In the News:
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.
Production still of Emma Jackson. Photo Philippa Bateman.
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
Ester – Bronwyn Penrith
John Glebe – Tim Burns
Debbie – Saoirse Nicholson
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
Production 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!