THE STORY – A young NYC born and bred Afro-Latina stares down historical, societal, and generational trauma with unflinching courage.
THE CAST – Rebeca Huntt
THE TEAM – Rebeca Huntt (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 79 Minutes
By Ema Sasic
A swarm of voices and conversations fill the space as Rebeca “Beba” Huntt soaks up the sun at a beach. Suddenly, silence replaces the hectic noise. “This is my part. Nobody else speak,” Huntt says through a voiceover. “You are now entering my universe.”
Huntt’s universe is a complex one filled with historical, societal, and generational trauma that impacts her daily life, whether she knows it or not. “Beba,” named after her childhood nickname, provides a raw and intimate look at the young Afro-Latina’s life as she tries to understand better and come to terms with the past, present and future. Through a mix of family interviews and slice-of-life moments, Huntt immerses viewers into her life, and though she often does leave us wanting more, it’s a memorable journey from start to finish.
The first-time filmmaker divides her story into four chapters. The first focuses on curses that often haunt families for generations. Her father and his family emigrated from the Dominican Republic to escape the rule of Rafael Trujillo, while her mother arrived from Venezuela. The pair earned as much money as possible to afford a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side for their three children. Huntt’s relationship with her father is sweet and captured beautifully in an interview in Central Park. When she asks him why they never moved from that small, rundown apartment, he stresses it was rent-controlled, in a safe neighborhood, and, most importantly, the best they could provide for their family. He knows it was difficult for Huntt and others to live in that tight space, but it was enough.
Other interviews with family members paint a different portrait of Huntt’s life. As she interviews her sister with a shaky, handheld camera, they walk past a community garden that was off-limits when they were younger. Her sister even details a story of bringing crack vials to school for a project and getting in trouble for it, even though she just thought they were pretty and saw adults using them in the garden. With her mother, Huntt is at her most tense. Her mother doesn’t want to answer questions like what it was like to raise Black children and calls out her daughter for her attitude, while Huntt accuses her mother of using microaggressions. It’s not easy to watch the duo be so at odds with each other throughout the film, but it’s a pure moment in this documentary. Huntt doesn’t shy away from showing us the uncomfortable truth, which allows the viewer to really feel like they are getting a deep and intimate look at the filmmaker’s life. It’s not something that happens too often in filmmaking of this kind, so it’s a blessing in a way.
Other chapters of the documentary focus on Huntt’s friends, past loves, and time at college. She highlights how different her life was compared to her friends at Bard College and points out how many of her friends, mostly white, don’t realize how privileged they are in this world. In one scene, three white friends argue about whether racism exists in the world and why Black people shouldn’t protest. Listening to them discuss this with a complete lack of self-awareness is cringe-worthy, and as the camera focuses on Huntt, she grows increasingly frustrated with the conversation. It’s a standout moment, but like with some others, Huntt moves away from it too quickly. In another, she briefly discusses a relationship that ended and led to her boyfriend dying by suicide. In the aftermath, we’re only given a short snippet of her emotionally singing karaoke. It’s a raw moment, but taking more time on this subject would have yielded a more potent result.
Nevertheless, “Beba” provides insight into Huntt’s life in ways other documentaries don’t. Interviews with her family members are the strongest parts, but she still finds a way to keep the story interesting with home videos and voiceover narration. The film would have been stronger if Huntt had taken her time with certain topics, but the young filmmaker still seems to be figuring it all out herself. There’s no set timeline for understanding and processing trauma, and with “Beba,” Huntt has bared her soul in a beautiful and complex way.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Rebeca Huntt gives viewers a deeply raw and intimate look at the many aspects of her life, which many filmmakers don’t always give us.
THE BAD – At times, Huntt moves past themes and topics too quickly.
THE OSCARS –