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Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground

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Made when she was just 18 years old, Barbara Rubin's art-porn masterpiece Christmas On Earth (1963-65) shocked NYC's experimental film scene and inspired NYC's thriving underground. For the next four years her filmmaking and irrepressible energy helped shatter artistic and sexist boundaries. A mythical Zelig of the sixties, she introduced Andy Warhol to the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan to the Kabbalah. But beyond shaping the spirit of the sixties, Barbara was seeking the deeper meaning of life. After retiring to a farm with Allen Ginsberg, she shocked everyone by converting to Hasidic Judaism, marrying and moving to France to live an anonymous life. Tragically, she died in 1980 after giving birth to her fifth child. For years, Jonas Mekas treasured all of Barbara's letters and films and cherished her memory. Working with Mekas' footage, the film takes us inside the world and mind of Barbara Rubin; a woman who truly believed that film could change the world.


  • Richard Foreman
  • Jonas Mekas
  • Amy Taubin

Atom User Reviews

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Jun 14, 2019

Smith has crafted a visually and artistically compelling portrait about a distinctive figure in a pivotal and exciting time.

Metacritic review by Gary Goldstein
Gary Goldstein
Los Angeles Times
May 30, 2019

Chuck Smith’s documentary is at once accessible and formally daring, echoing its subject’s style while simultaneously celebrating her radical achievements. It’s an enlightening nonfiction portrait of a feminist pioneer that, in this #MeToo era, should strike a timely chord.

Metacritic review by Nick Schager
Nick Schager
May 27, 2019

The documentary's talking heads include Rubin's aunt and cousin as well as artists, friends and critics — notably Amy Taubin, whose personal recollections are particularly incisive. Even with this mix of voices, Smith doesn't try to fill in the many gaps in Rubin's story but to honor them, along with her creative and spiritual impulses.

Metacritic review by Sheri Linden
Sheri Linden
The Hollywood Reporter