The Beehive
An Enigma Machine Production

Produced by Philippa Bateman and directed by Zanny Begg The Beehive is inspired by the life and tragic ‘disappearance’ of Juanita Nielsen—Mark Foys heiress, style icon and anti-development activist, unconventional publisher and Kings Cross resident.

Sydney, 1975. One woman is making too much noise. She's got construction unions refusing to work, residents putting up a fight against the violent and intimidatory tactics of the developers' thugs, and she's writing and publishing highly critical editorials against the development in her own community paper NOW.

On the morning of July 4, Juanita Nielsen attends what she believes to be a business meeting at the Carousel Club in Kings Cross. She's never seen or heard from again. A coronial enquiry into her disappearance in 1983 determined that she had most likely been murdered but there was not enough evidence to convict anyone as no-one was talking. The enquiry into the disappearance had been impeded, at the time, by police corruption. In 1994, A Joint Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia was formed to further investigate her disappearance. It also concluded that corruption impeded the police investigation. She was declared as deceased by an inquest.

THE BEEHIVE is a non linear documentary; it is assembled, via an algorithm, from a reservoir of scripted fictions, documentary interviews and choreographed sequences. In total, there are 1348 possible 'versions' of the film, and all of varying duration. Using the tropes of true crime, the work morphs and evolves with each viewing, offering audiences different glimpses and interpretations of Juanita.

You can see an extended scene from the film here.

Twelve actors and non-actors play the role of Juanita. Also featured are documentary interviews with Juanita's friends and/or contemporaries including Ian Milliss, Meredith Burgman and David Farrell as well as former Kings Cross burlesque performer Imogen Kelly and Sex Worker activist Julie Bates.

The cast includes: Pamela Rabe, Nicolas Hope, Emma Jackson, Ivy D’Orsogna, Maria Tran, Taylor Wiese, Bronwyn Penrith, Nyx Calder, Koco Carey, Amala Groom, Ebube Uba, among others. 

Production still by Philippa Bateman. Pamela Rabe plays the ghost of Juanita Nielsen - 'The Beekeeper'.

The Beehive screened at ACMI in Gallery 2 from 31 July—6 November 2018 and premiered in Sydney at UNSW Galleries in association with the Sydney Festival, 5 Jan—23 February, 2019. It also screened at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA), Brisbane from 13 April 2019.  

The work was commisssioned by ACMI and Artbank.


Writer/Director Zanny Begg 
Producer/Script Editor Philippa Bateman
Line Producer Sharon Abela
Director of Photography Emma Paine
Costume  Matthew Stegh
Sound Design Hugh Fasher
Make Up Annette McKenzie
Hair David Grainger
Casting Zanny Begg and Philippa Bateman
Composers Jasmine Guffond and James Brown
Singer Mara Knežević
Colourist Yanni Kronenberg
Software Engineer Andy Nicholson
Still Photographs Philippa Bateman and Hugh Hamilton


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, 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

Interviewees: Julie Bates, Meredith Burgmann, Tyson Koh, David Farrell, Imogen Kelly and Ian Millis.

All photographs by Philippa Bateman © enigma machine pty ltd