Review: Beba

Written and directed by Rebeca Huntt, reflecting on her childhood and adolescence in New York City as the daughter of a Dominican father and Venezuelan mother, Huntt investigates the historical, societal, and generational trauma she’s inherited and ponders how those ancient wounds have shaped her, while simultaneously considering the universal truths that connect us all as humans. Huntt searches for a way to forge her own creative path amid a landscape of intense racial and political unrest.

Creating a documentary to explore your own life and family is never an easy thing to do, to take a deep dive into your emotions, experiences and trauma, while trying to give a comprehensive view. Especially in Rebeca Huntt’s case, as she takes a particularly intimate perspective, and there’s a huge amount of strife, drama and emotional damage. However, what brings it all together is the tone that Huntt takes, it’s poetic and natural. The entirety of Beba feels candid and unfiltered, even though it has a great structure and editing to it. It holds an artistic temperament, almost like a social experiment to see what happens when you bring forth harsh memories and ask yourself and your family to reflect on them.

It’s beautifully shot, creates an immediately strong and endearing atmosphere, while evoking a nostalgic feel. It flows with a compelling ease, there’s an eloquence, intelligence and weight to it which makes it move so well. Part of that comes with the understated manner taken when exploring their family’s fraught past. Some would have found it easy to sensationalise the details but given the intimate nature of Beba, it approaches them in an open, honest way. It also isn’t shadowed by resentment, instead simply searching for understanding which is not a common occurrence.

One difficulty when approaching a project like this is the focus falling too far inward but Huntt manages to avoid that entirely. It’s interesting that, while being told from her perspective, it does feel like it has a wider view, Huntt is a thoughtful guide through her story. It’s also accented by a wonderful use of colour, which really helps to embrace that natural flow. Especially when dealing with such heavy topics as race and trauma, she approaches them in a manner of discussion, it’s an open conversation, not singularly her experience. It has a keen self-awareness to present Huntt’s life while leaving it open and relatable for others who may have gone through something similar.

Beba is a compelling, intimate and superbly shot documentary. It has such a wonderful charm and naturally flowing story, taking on utterly relevant and harsh topics with an accessible and thoughtful tone. It mixes colour and nostalgia with reflection and discussion, it’s intensely personal but doesn’t get caught up in itself, holding onto a wider perspective. This is an interesting challenge to take on as a debut film but Rebeca Huntt does so with impressive confidence and skill.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Reviewed as part of Sheffield DocFest 2022

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