Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground

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USA | 2018 | 78 minutes | Chuck Smith

A portrait of rebellious artist and avant-garde filmmaker Barbara Rubin (Christmas on Earth), who influenced the likes of Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, and Allen Ginsburg and broached the traditionally male domain of Orthodox Judaism, before her mysterious death at age 35.

Barbara Rubin is someone we should all know about. She came to New York in 1963 at age 18 to work for Jonas Mekas, the Village Voice writer who was also the center of the New American Cinema movement of experimental filmmakers. Very quickly she was holding forth with the older, mostly male, filmmakers about drugs, films, art, whatever, then befriended some of the era's most culturally significant artists. Her dual-projector film Christmas on Earth was made that year, which pushed the boundaries of explicit feminist film in a time when artists were being arrested. She introduced Andy Warhol to the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan to the Kabbalah, and convinced Allen Ginsberg to cut his beard. Chuck Smith's documentary does a great job capturing New York's punk-rock creativity at the time, using lots of great archival footage along with interviews with people like Mekas and film critics like J. Hoberman and Amy Taubin. The effects of drugs finally caught up with her and, in true Barbara Rubin style, she changed her life in an extreme way. Equal parts nostalgia and inspiration, the documentary looks at the artistic compulsions and internal conflicts of someone who should have been more of a star. This movie should help put Rubin back on the celestial map.

Andy Spletzer

Director Biography
An interest in environmental and social-justice issues led Chuck Smith to documentary filmmaking; as he puts it, "change can only come from people who are inspired and the best way to inspire people is with stories... I still think that filmmaking can change the world." Based in New York City, he has worked for the National Geographic Channel, Discovery, CBS News, and PBS.

Sponsored by Comcast, Puget Systems

  • Director: Chuck Smith
  • Principal Cast: Richard Foreman, Jonas Mekas, Amy Taubin
  • Country: USA, France, Israel
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 78 minutes
  • Producer: Chuck Smith
  • Cinematographers: Andy Bowley
  • Editors: Chuck Smith
  • Music: Lee Ranaldo
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: DOC NYC, 2018 (Metropolis Grand Jury Prize)
  • Filmography: Forrest Bess: Key to the Riddle (Doc., 1999)
  • Language: English
  • Format: DCP
  • US Distributor: Juno Films
  • International Sales: Juno Films