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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 30+ Film Festivals on 5 continents | JURY AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY - Minneapolis Sound Unseen Film & Music Festival | WARNERMEDIA AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY - Provincetown International Film FestivalPerforming Arts • Media Studies • African Diaspora • LGBTQ+ & Gender Studies • Immigration & Migration Studies • Music Business • Family Acceptance • Intersectionality
Date of Completion: 2021 | Run Time: 93 & 56 minutes | Language: English & French with English subtitles | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Director(s): Emily Branham | Producer(s): Emily Branham, Marc Smolowitz & Jonathan Goodman Levitt | Unavailable to African countries and Sweden
BEING BEBE is the story of Marshall Ngwa, a Cameroonian artist whose identity hinges on the complicated success of his drag persona, BeBe Zahara Benet. Grounded by Marshall’s own present-day narration, the film features 15 years of vérité, interviews, and performances. Viewers follow Marshall’s remarkable immigrant journey from the earliest days of his amateur drag performance career in Minneapolis, circa 2006, to becoming the first winner of the now-iconic reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2009. As Marshall fights to maintain the trajectory of his career despite a series of difficult setbacks, the film reveals what it means to celebrate and advance Queer Black Excellence during the 2020s. Alongside Marshall's story, viewers are introduced to LGBTQ+ youth and activists in Cameroon, where Queer identity is criminalized.
The New York Times | Natalia Winkelman
CRITIC'S PICK: "In the perspicacious documentary Being BeBe,’ the director Emily Branham seems to have taken a page from Janet Malcolm. Within her profile of Marshall Ngwa, who performs drag as BeBe Zahara Benet, Branham tucks lucid insights about the codes, ethics and art of cinematic biography.”
POV Magazine | Pat Mullen
“Being BeBe illustrates how the mainstream success for queer artists remains a hard won battle and is doubly difficult for artists of colour ... The film is also a telling human rights portrait about the ongoing fight for LGBTQ rights worldwide.”
Cornell University's Delta Kappa Alpha Professional Cinematic Society | Emily Vo
"Being able to screen Being BeBe and speak with Emily and Marshall for a Q&A was an unforgettable experience! As aspiring filmmakers, we were able to speak with both Marshall and Emily on storytelling through music, film, and performance. Witnessing Marshall’s own story from the early days of BeBe and growing into the icon today was incredibly interesting and heartwarming in sharing times of joy and vulnerability. The Q&A session not only elevated this screening but provided a chance to dig deeper and meet the people involved in this unique storytelling experience. "
Matthew's Place | Judy Bokao
"This necessary documentary comes at a time when drag performances are being threatened with anti-LGBTQ laws. A drag queen story told with integrity is exactly the positive representation we could all use right now."
Documentary.org (International Documentary Association) | Lauren Wissot
"Emily Branham’s Being BeBe is a revealing walk (uh, sashay) down memory lane with the titular BeBe Zahara Benet."
Movie Marker (UK) | Jasmine Valentine
"🌟🌟🌟🌟 Being BeBe is an abundant intersection of cultural issues....the drag documentary that the modern world needs to see."
OutRight Action International | Micheal Ighodaro
“Moving, captivating, inspiring – It’s everything…Millions of people across the globe – especially young black queer people – will be very moved and inspired.”
Hollywood Reporter | David Rooney
"Bottom line: Shantay, you stay."
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Neal Justin and Chris Hewitt
"...the former Gay 90's standout is a natural camera subject, so it's zippy fun to hang in the Benet world."
BFI Flare | Jay Bernard
"Heartfelt and fun...An uproarious, joyous portrait."
Queer Guru | Roger Walker-Dack
“Watching BeBe create his craft as an artist is nothing less than inspiring...a truly refreshingly honest & entertaining up close and personal profile.”
Provincetown Magazine | Steve Desroches
“Lovingly explored....a document of what can happen in America when imagination and diversity are embraced.”
The Spool | B.L. Panther
“Remarkably woven together…puts queer struggle into a global perspective.”
Out Chicago WCPT | Ellen Miller & Scott Duff
“An immigrant success story…entertaining & poignant…the drag version of Rocky!”
MPR Art Hounds | Nick Kouhi
“An intimate, contemplative film that is also a really powerful testament to art and the value of art and how art can express oneself.”
Black Girl Nerds | Stacey Yvonne
“Relatable and triumphant.”
Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine | Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
“A very Minnesota story full of local stars…This film shows a good, real, and little-seen side of our beloved hometown.”
Alliance of Women Journalists | Valerie Kalfrin
"[Being BeBe is...] a warm profile of an effervescent personality who radiates self-acceptance and encourages others to do the same."
Reel News Daily | Elizabeth Whittemore
"Being BeBe is a heartfelt and honest look at the artist pushing boundaries without pause."
Vague Visages | Joey Keough
“Branham is given unprecedented access into Marshall/Bebe’s world. Despite the challenges of filming during the COVID-19 pandemic, she retains a direct connection to her subject, sensitively teasing everything out even as viewers learn that “BeBe hates being vulnerable.”
DrewRosome.com | Drew Rowsome
"The rags to riches to rags saga of an ambitious drag queen is fascinating, fierce and fabulous. And Marshall/Bebe is an engaging and lovable subject who never fails to entertain or have a quip.”
In The Seats | Paolo Kagaoan
"There’s an interesting bit of editing in Emily Branham’s Being Bebe."
The Washington Blade | John Paul King
“An up-close look at a performer whose emotional journey raises timely concerns at the intersection of LGBTQ, BIPOC, and immigrant lives today.”
RealityYeo.com | Deb Yeo
“It’s easy to get swept up in the glamorous artifice of drag and forget that it’s a hard, and not always lucrative, way to make a living. The documentary “Being BeBe,” which highlights 15 years in the life of drag artist BeBe Zahara Benet, is clear-eyed about this reality.”
"RuPaul's Drag Race" Winner BeBe Zahara Benet Looks Back on 15 Years in Drag in New Documentary | Mike Bloom, Parade
Women and Hollywood | Cassandra Nicholson
NewNowNext.com | Christopher Rudoplh
Xtra* | Sarah Taher
Edina Sun Current | Caitlin Anderson
What Not to Doc | Basil Tsiokos
Girl Talk HQ | Asha Dahya
Tribeca Film Festival
Jury Award for Best Documentary | Sound Unseen Film & Music Festival (Minneapolis)
WarnerMedia Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature | Provincetown International Film Festival
Outfest Los Angeles
Seattle Queer Film Festival
Toronto Human Rights Film Festival
Provincetown International Film Festival
Tallgrass Film Festival (Wichita)
Sound Unseen (Minneapolis)
Twisted Arts Film Festival (Tulsa
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 30+ Film Festivals on 5 continents
Full list viewable here: https://beingbebemovie.com/festival-tour/
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH BEBE ZAHARA BENET
Featured in BEING BEBE
BeBe Zahara Benet is equal parts bold, beautiful, and business-minded. Simply stated: The international recording artist, TV personality, activist and pop culture provocateur breaks the entertainment mold. Benet is best known as the inaugural winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the star of TLC’s Dragnificent and the subject of the award-winning documentary Being BeBe.
Born and raised in the Western African country of Cameroon, BeBe moved to Minneapolis 20 years ago to complete his college studies and be closer to his family. BeBe’s first major performance was alongside pop diva Cyndi Lauper in a performance of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” during LGBT Pride. Soon, BeBe was wowing audiences with his international flavor and regal stage presence.
From releasing viral singles, like 2018’s “Jungle Kitty” to 2020’s “Banjo,” and unforgettable on-screen appearances to launching a design and decor firm, BeBe has made an indelible mark on the entertainment world.
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH FILMMAKER EMILY BRANHAM
Director and Producer of BEING BEBE
Emily Branham is a filmmaker who specializes in unexpected, intimate, and deeply human films about artists. Her first feature documentary, BEING BEBE, premiered at Tribeca Festival, was a New York Times Critic’s Pick, won Jury & Audience Awards on its festival tour across 5 continents, and was picked up by Fuse Media in the US as well as OUTtv, FrootTV, SVT and DR in territories worldwide.
The short documentary she made in 5 days, "Legend: a film about Greg Garing," won the Jury Prize for Best Film of the International Doc Challenge at Hot Docs in Toronto, then screened at Sheffield Doc/Fest, IDFA, Nashville, Big Sky, Rooftop Films, and on the Documentary Channel.
She directs docu-style short-form content for clients including JP Morgan, Lincoln Center, Atlantic Council, Martha Stewart Weddings, and AT&T, and has years of experience working with incredible creatives in high-pressure environments as a post-production and visual effects producer for clients including Mercedes, David Yurman, Adidas, Geico, Samsung, Apple, Google, Nike, Lexus, AT&T, Citibank, Subway, Budweiser, Verizon, Fiat, A&E, PBS, Nova, Paramount Pictures, The Roots, and Kanye West.
Originally from Minneapolis, Emily was a child actor who earned her SAG-AFTRA card at 5 years old, and grew up doing plays at the Guthrie Theater and Children's Theater Company. She studied Radio/TV/Film on the directing track at Northwestern University and lives in New York City.
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH COMPOSER HÉLÈNE FAUSSART
Composer, Original Score for BEING BEBE
Helene Faussart (aka Golden Flack Jones) is French and Cameroonian. She received a multicultural upbringing that shaped her art and business direction.
After studying Law in college in Bordeaux, France, she founded Les Nouveaux Griots, a non-profit organization that promotes Urban and Black arts and culture. She also wrote several articles and contributed to the French Urban press as well as hosting urban music shows on French radio.
With her sister Celia, she created the music band Les Nubians, whose first Afropean Soul record “Princesses Nubiennes” hit the US Charts in 1999, winning a Lady Of Soul Train 1999 Award, two NAACP nominations, and a Grammy Award Nomination in 2004.
Her love of art and production led her to curate, among other special events, the Bordeaux Carnival in 2004 and to conceive and produce ECHOS-Chapter One: Nubian Voyager in 2007, a Book-CD dedicated to Urban Poetry in French and English, along with movie & film soundtracks, a musical for kids & Les Nubians’ latest music releases.
Widely recognized as an artist, an activist and a speaker, Helene has presented at Columbia University, Harvard University, ASCAP Women, ASALH Convention (Association for the Study of African American Life and History), and Atlanta National Black Arts Festival. She notably performed at the 2013 South-South UN Awards Ceremony, 2014 TEDx Denver, Colorado and the 2015 UN Women’s Night, joining Senator Hillary Clinton on the podium.
Helene is an active traveler. She is based in Guadeloupe, French West Indies after being a citizen of Brooklyn and Chicago for years. She publishes significant work in magazines & online blogs every year.
Les Nubians are touring worldwide and the band is finishing now their new album to be released winter 2022-2023.