Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Like the best of these sorts of essay films, Huntt is intimate without being unnecessarily introspective." | Photo: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

“I’m going to war and there will be casualties,” Rebecca “Beba” Huntt says at the start of her highly personal but expansive documentary. You might think of Philip Larkin’s This Be The Verse as the director considers “the curses” that are passed down to us by our ancestors – a universal theme no matter what the specific context.

Huntt takes an approach to her childhood and teenage years that’s a winning combination of the combative and poetic. A child of a Dominican dad and Venezuelan mum, she considers how this heritage has shaped her life but also more immediate elements, such as growing up in a one-bed apartment with them and her brother and sister on New York’s Upper West Sid - a costly choice by her parents in a bid to give their kids the best start they could and which may have come with an additional in terms of the family’s interrelationships.

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The documentarian has an eye for a strong image, presenting a vibrant collage of her home city, whether its light dappling water or skyscrapers in golden hour light viewed from the subway – with the latter calling to mind DA Pennebaker’s Daybreak Express. There’s a natural energy to these images, whether she’s dancing on a shoreline or transporting us further afield to the violent and turbulent beauty of a waterfall, edited and scored with a graceful, almost free jazz sensibility by Isabel Freeman and Andrew Holland.

A self-confessed daddy’s girl, the family dynamics are plain to see as easygoing footage with her father is in stark contrast to more passive-aggressive encounters with her mum. Huntt embraces this rawness intercutting these moments with more philosophical considerations of the individual pasts we all carry around with us and observations that are often both poetic and brutal, such as when she recalls her parents dancing in the kitchen “the pain festering around them like an aura”.

Like the best of these sorts of essay films, Huntt is intimate without being unnecessarily introspective – her considerations of what it means to navigate life as an Afro-Latina, narrow enough to feel specific and interesting in their own right but broad enough to encompass many common themes of fitting in and getting on that flow across all heritages. Perhaps a re-enactment illustrating a friends’ discussion of white privilege feels a little pushed – but that’s only in terms of its execution, making you wonder, who would have been holding the camera?, since the content of the discussion feels bang on the money.

Even the absences – most notably that of her brother – make their presence felt as Huntt articulates the way silences can be used as a weapon, music a potential way to strike a bond. Huntt may be going to war, but she never forgets to take us all with her.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2022
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We follow Afro-Latina filmmaker Rebeca Huntt, the titular Beba, as she takes us on the journey through her experience growing up.

Director: Rebeca Huntt

Writer: Rebeca Huntt

Starring: Rebeca Huntt

Year: 2021

Runtime: 79 minutes

Country: US

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