Beba is a documentary autobiography that peels back the layers of filmmaker Rebeca Huntt’s life and exposes all, or most of its skeletons. Huntt’s debut film explores race, class, and her ancestry authentically. She dives deep into the story of how her family came to live in New York, the wounds and tensions between family members that span years, and the experience of existing in different social circles, all while ensuring not to spare herself from scrutiny. The film took eight years to complete and garnered Huntt the reputation of being a rising talent to watch out for.
Rebecca Huntt grips every fibre of your attention the minute Beba begins, “you are now entering my universe…I am the lens, the subject, the authority.” With these words, Huntt makes a few things abundantly and unmistakably clear. She is here, standing boldly and cloaked in strength and vulnerability that leaves no room for question. She is going to occupy space and is going to do so without asking permission. To see and hear a black woman declare such a statement is both empowering and terrifying at the same time. Terrifying because as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that Huntt demands we all do the same; take up space and unapologetically tell our stories.
Huntt beautifully intertwines a mix of interviews and stills as she takes a courageous dive into her generational trauma and broken familial relationships. She digs deep into her parents’ lives and histories to better understand her reality as a bi-racial woman. At one point, she directly asks her mom what it was like to raise a black child, which invokes an immediate defensive response that makes it clear her mom believes she did her best.
Throughout the course of the film, I oscillated between hurt, anger, and exhaustion. From seeing Huntt having close to no relationship with her brother to enduring a conversation on race with white “allies”, the film envelopes you in raw emotions that touch your core. I did not have to look close to see the toll that this work took on Huntt. The one emotion this film is devoid of is sympathy. Huntt isn’t asking us to feel sorry for her. She’s daring us to rise to the level of honest introspection that doesn’t exonerate us of our faults.
I interpret Beba as a fearless act of love. I see it as an honest step in the direction of true healing for Huntt. Despite the glaring aggression seen during the interview with her mom, they were both truly trying to find a way to properly communicate with each other. The title of the film itself “Beba” is a nickname given to Huntt by her mother. Beba is equal parts a demolition and restoration project. In Huntt’s own words, “Every one of us inherits the curses of our ancestors. But we may put an end to this cycle by constantly going to war with ourselves.”
Poetic but brutal, many parts of this film will be harshly familiar to anyone who has had to navigate the complicated reality of growing up in an immigrant household, while trying to find a place in an incompatible society. Beba is a film I would highly recommend.