Beatty is celebrated as an auteur of her own self-devised genre, as one of the most passionate and bravest filmmakers today. Working with themes of feminism, subversion, abjection, body politics and the agency of womens’ desire over a career spanning more than two decades.
Maria Beatty has produced and directed films for over twenty-seven years that are on the cutting edge of art and female eroticism.
A precursor of the so-called new wave of “erotic noir,” she is renown for her profound explorations of female sexuality, body politics and lesbian desires. Her vision is inspired by expressionist German cinema, French surrealism, American film noir, and gay underground filmmakers such as Jean Genet and Kenneth Anger, who set new standards in erotic cinema.
After a start in the ’80s as a photographer for musicians and performance artists, Beatty started filming in Super 8, making experimental short movies that profiled the eccentric women and transexuals living in her former neighborhood, the Lower East Side of New York City.
In 1989, she directed her first film, entitled Gang of Souls, a documentary that explored the insights and influence of the Beat poets on the artistic rock and poetry scene. Artists featured in this film include William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jim Carroll, Marianne Faithfull, Richard Hell, Lydia Lunch, and Henry Rollins. Concurrently, she was a curator in a cultural media center, programming videos made by minorities and activists.
Soon after, she directed two more documentaries, these about women who use their bodies as a powerful tool in performance art. The first one, entitled, Sphinxes Without Secrets (1991) presents some of the most engaging work produced by women performance artists, among them Diamanda Galas, Carolee Schneemann, Holly Hughes, and Annie Sprinkle. Sluts and Goddesses (1992) came next; it delves into the slut and goddess sides of female sexuality.
In 1995, Beatty conceived and produced her first erotic film, which was shot in black and white, without spoken words, and accompanied by experimental music and sound composed by John Zorn. In it, she portrays a submissive maid, in a sadomasochistic relationship with another woman, played by her lover at the time. The following film, in 1997, was The Black Glove, which quickly became a cult film. That same year, she started her own distribution company, Bleu Productions, and since then she has produced, directed and edited over thirty lesbian and queer transgressive erotic films. She has performed in several of her movies, live stage performances, and was featured in the documentaries, Didn’t Do It For Love by Monika Treut and Fetishes by Nick Broomfield.