Rebeca “Beba” Huntt self-reflects on her upbringing and lingering generational trauma in her debut documentary film Beba which premiered at TIFF this weekend. Shot over eight years, Huntt opens up her world to show the tragedy and triumphs of her home life. Beba is also a New York story. As the audience views the environment through her lens, the audience watches Huntt’s transformation as the city changes around her. She focuses on her family who includes her Dominican father, Venezuelan mother, and two siblings.
She grew up off Central Park West with her family, living in a rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment. When interviewing her father, Huntt questions why he decided for them to live in that environment. His answer is it was what he could afford. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic in the early 1990s was probably his only option. It’s clear her relationship with Dad is a lot more harmonious than it is with her mother. There is tension between them, especially as they go back and forth, blaming each other for the failures of the family. Her sister is a former drug user and currently suffering from Agoraphobia, while her brother is in and out of the family. Everyone has their own crosses to bear.
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Huntt doesn’t forget this fact and is hardest on herself. Growing up with internalized anti-Blackness that her mother chose to shield her from instead of instilling pride in Rebeca and celebrating her Afro-Latin heritage. She carries this with her as she goes off to school and assimilates into the primarily white Bard College. Huntt must shrink herself to “fit in,” and she begins to scrutinize her identity even harder than before.
The first-time director does an excellent job looking back at the painful moments in her life. You can hear it in her voice that while the words are harsh, she speaks without judgment. The film is edited with clips of the last eight years, and the audience can see the quality difference of the time, but that adds to its charm. As the documentary moves forward, the visuals become clearer. It’s as if Huntt uses the shooting and editing style as a symbol for her personal growth.
Examining every aspect of who you are today is a tall order. Many find revisiting painful memories from the past triggering, but Rebeca Huntt found it necessary to confront the old version of herself, to walk into the future. Is Beba done maturing? No. That trauma will take a long time to heal. But whatever her destination, she is determined to navigate the road with a new sense of self, enhanced self-worth, and loving the skin that she is in.
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