Rebeca Huntt and Sofia Geld met as freshmen at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Their opposing backgrounds — Geld is white born and raised in São Paulo, and Huntt is Afro-Latina raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — inspired them to tell a story common to many in a unique way.
Titled “Beba,” the documentary memoir chronicles Huntt’s life and is named after the nickname her mother gave her. As explained by ELLE, “Beba” traces Huntt’s complex emotional and literal journey from the urban Dominican community in which she grew up to the privilege of Bard College, where she met Geld.
Part documentary, part memoir, Beba incorporates music, animation, poetry, and live footage and features an almost all-female crew.
After years of fundraising, the feature film has finally seen the light of day at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) 2021, bringing to the table a reality shared by millions of Afro-Latinas in the United States, from an intimate and personal narrative.
In “Beba,” Huntt reflects on her complicated upbringing as Afro-Latina, whose Dominican father and Venezuelan mother raised her and her two brothers in a small Central Park West apartment, according to Indie Wire.
The film raises questions about family dysfunction and social class, especially as she had to live in this increasingly chaotic household into adulthood.
“A gifted student who was turned on to Shakespeare and Angelou and who became the center of a brilliant creative coterie at New York’s Bard College, Huntt found that the wellspring of her inspiration as an artist was to be the unhealed wound of her family background,” film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote in his column for The Guardian. “Her upbringing emerges from this film as a fractious and contested site in which the African and Latina sides are at loggerheads with each other as well as with white condescension, a tension which she locates in a larger context of racism, ideology, non-assimilation, and a rhetoric of grievance.”
With the melancholy atmosphere afforded by the 16mm footage, Huntt narrates her life, asserting that “violence lives in my DNA.” In a 79-minute feature, the Afro-Latina filmmaker recounts her exploration of the past years in a “generational soul searching.”
Shot over the course of eight years, “Beba” is a similar exploration, Indie Wire explains. Huntt interviews her family, recalls her budding college years, praises her group of friends, and later shows the inequities of surrounding herself with (presumably) liberal white college students. Without hesitation, she also discusses her own shortcomings.
Huntt divides her story into four parts: her parents’ history, her family traditions and dynamics, her years at Bard, the parallels of privileged life at the institution, and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
Her story, as well as the way she tells it, has put Huntt center stage at TIFF and has transformed her into one of the up-and-coming independent filmmakers who has everyone waiting for more.