Risk-taking filmmaker Beth B strips down the audience to our most venerable emotional state by showing us eight burlesque artists who dare to break social, political and sexual boundaries in the film Exposed. Beth B’s interviews take us to the raw edge of human emotion into this unconventional burlesque world. The artists all have names such as Rose Wood, Bunny Love, Dirty Martini and Bambi the Mermaid and stories to match their eccentric lifestyle. They all come from different backgrounds and have the compulsion to participate in this art form. Burlesque gives them an opportunity to strip down to the minimum and at the same time make statements about society’s inhibitions and preconceptions by using humor, storytelling and shocking imagery. As one of the actresses put it, “In the Garden of Eden, we were all naked… being naked was the easy part.” The hard part is stripping off the layers of personal struggles revealing a unique perception of life. The film is very powerful and very entertaining as well as shocking.
Beth B’s film-making career started in the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s using a super 8mm camera. She and her now-husband had produced experimental films which belong to the No Wave, no-budget style of underground punk filmmaking. Her themes often show the dark side of life such as the film Stigmata which contains six interviews of six drug addicts. Her films were shown in lofts and alternative spaces rather than in a cinema. She also had done media installations, sculptures and photography work and has worked with her mother, Ida Applebroog, who is an installation artist. Both have had exhibitions in museums as well.
Beth B explained she and her husband needed to earn a living. She, as a filmmaker, and he, as a musician, were struggling to make ends meet and they decided to work in commercial television. After three years, Beth B felt how television restricted her creativity. At that point she started to film these performers on the Lower East Side of New York at the Slipper Room.
After a while, she narrowed her focus onto these eight characters and wanted to dive deeper into their stories. She explained that it was difficult to get close to them since they are a very tightly knit circle. It is their protection against the conservative political backdrop which is currently in the U.S. What opened the door to them was purely not having the financial basis to hire a crew to work for them. This meant that she and her husband did most of the filming, music, sound and editing as well as production on this film. The burlesque artists could appreciate her sincerity and gave the performance of their lives. The more extreme they were, the more interested Beth B became in exposing their story. The film does have a conventional flow and shows very few remnants of her former punk roots.
By the way, she is still trying to pay for this film and wants the film to be left uncensored. She is using the Kickstarter.com project to raise money by selling art pieces and taking donations. What is extraordinary about this film is that she challenges us, the audience, to accept a world that is so different from our own and she does it with such elegance that we can relate to these artists and understand the meaning of their work.