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Filmmaker Rebeca Huntt revisits her journal in Tribeca darling 'Beba'

July 7, 2022
4 min read time

I had the pleasure of speaking with auteur writer/director, Rebeca Huntt, shortly after the Tribeca debut of her first feature project, Beba. Told through the first-person point of view of Huntt herself, Beba [Spanish for baby] is a didactic documentary of Huntt’s life growing up in New York under Afro-Latino parents. As the youngest of three, Huntt tells her story from childhood through adolescence through a confessional-style love letter to her family. It’s raw, riveting, and above all, brutally honest.

The film depicts timely themes such as family trauma, sins of the father, and growing pains as a jagged-edged, coming-of-age- story that Gen z and Millennials alike can relate to. Huntt, the main subject of the hour and nine-minute documentary, opens the film with a haunting voice-over that says "I am the lens, the subject, and the authority… and there will be casualties." A fair warning not just to her beloved family featured in the film, but to us, the audience taking a peek behind the curtain.

 

Dear, Diary

To understand the layers of how Beba came to be, we have to start at the beginning of Huntt’s writing career – with her first journal entry.

“I can’t remember what my first journal entry would have been because I’ve always had journals,” said Huntt. “But, I’ve been writing poetry since I was in the first grade. I would win publishing competitions through my school. Writing has always been a big part of who I am.”

Cut to more than ten years down the road and Huntt has now graduated from a private college which she describes as a “utopia.” She’s immediately thrust into a new world – America 2020. George Floyd has just been brutally murdered and people across the county were taking to the streets. The state of the world ultimately became the roots for Beba.

“A year after graduating from college, '' explained Huntt, "there was so much tension in New York, in this country, and in the world. So much tension in my own home. I graduated and then had to move back into a one-bedroom apartment with my family and they hadn’t changed. It’s interesting because, at that time, I was yearning to connect with people, because all of these things can feel very isolating. I told this to my close friend [and producer Sophia Geld] and we decided we needed to make a film from my perspective.”

 

Script that heals

Because of the sole perspective, Huntt was able to create an honest reflection of herself to share with her other subjects – her family.

“If I could be this honest, the hope was to start opening up a dialogue–that would be the result. And I think it has. Everyone opens up in their own way. I’ve been going to therapy for almost ten years now. I think at one point it was very hard to interact because it felt very triggering. I didn't know how to do that and feel healthy about myself. It’s been a process just to accept and forgive all sides of myself, but it’s helped me to understand how best to interact with each family member at that moment.

Now armed with an idea and energized by a global movement, the first step for Huntt and Geld was to revisit Huntt’s long-kept diaries from her past.

“We went through entry by entry just making the ones we liked. I sort of marked the ones I liked. Then I would put sticky notes on the wall with notes about which ones had to do with my mom, dad, brother, sister, etc."

 

Put it to practice

After organizing fragments of her memory, it was time to film. What makes a project like Beba special isn’t the 16-millimeter film it’s shot on, but its art film aesthetic mixed with a raw encapsulation of human life. The audience feels ingrained into each shot as if we are in Huntt’s body ourselves. While this was always Huntt’s intention, it was also challenging to explain to investors who weren’t familiar with her directing style.

“I am not the best at pitching this film! It’s so funny because the film has made it really far without me being able to pitch it. I think that’s because I had other ways. I realized very early on going into the room with investors and telling them this was is about a 20-something who hasn't done much in her life, who was very unexceptional, and who was coming from the background she's coming from and that the person was me – there was nothing to sell them on. They didn't see what I saw–what I knew. So I completely understood when people didn't want to be involved with the film. I got it. So then, I started to just ask them questions about themselves and what made them feel connected– or I’d ask them some of the same questions posed in the film, then turned it around to say the film talks about this kind of stuff."

And that’s exactly the kind of unique force that Huntt beautifully executes in her feature film debut. If there’s one thing to learn from this budding star on the rise it’s this – don’t compromise your vision for anyone, but do learn how to express it.

It’s not always about getting people to understand what you’re creating, but why you’re creating it.

 

Beba is currently showing in select theaters around the country.

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