Rebeca Huntt on her documentary self-portrait, the hypnotic film Beba

Baby is a fascinating new film, a less traditionally explanatory documentary than one more in line with Chris Marker’s philosophical video-essays or incredibly personal self-portraits Tarnation Where little white lie. Rebecca Huntthe filmmaker behind the project, turns the camera on herself and her family in a moving exploration so raw it hurts. Niani Scott called it“the coming-of-age story that black American children have been waiting for, a documentary that encompasses every step of reclaiming an American bloodline,” and it’s a beautiful, methodical montage of personal experiences.

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Huntt’s film is a cinematic exorcism, a personal judgment that summons the ghosts of culture, family and childhood trauma in an evocative and intimate way. Telling the story of his Dominican father, his Venezuelan mother, his siblings, his friends, his schooling and his university years, Baby manifests the sense that the personal is the political, using Huntt’s life in New York as a microcosm for something universal while retaining its own specificity.

The unfailing honesty of Rebeca Huntt in Beba

“I really wanted to be as honest as possible,” Huntt, nicknamed Beba by her mother, tells us. “The issues or questions I had were very intimate, but I also felt like they were questions most people were asking, but maybe not out loud.” As such, the acclaimed documentary film quietly tackles concepts such as assimilation and colonization, generational trauma and what is passed down through ancestry, and how to form bonds in a world of difference.


Huntt interviews his family in a deeply personal way, and while the conversations are poignant and (at times uncomfortably) honest, Huntt’s film uncovers what lies between questions and answers. In every discussion in the film are gestures, looks and stammering that point to a lifetime of love, bitterness, frustration, hope and respect. A documentary interview is always a strange and difficult thing Does “the truth” change when a camera films it, like the observer effect in quantum physics? Do people change once they are filmed, and how can something be filmed and edited objectively without bias?

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Huntt understands that bias is the lens through which art is so often created, and she doesn’t hold back. The interviews and conversations in Baby, then take on a fascinating form as Huntt investigates the issues she cares about with the people she loves. It can be hard to watch on occasion, this conversation between generations and cultures, and Huntt was understandably worried. Including anyone you know and love in your art in pursuit of truth is a dangerous game. Hutt explains:


My parents are the people who worried me the most, because they belong to an older generation. It’s like, my brothers and sisters, they understand that you have to do what you have to do, and they are also our generation of artists and innovators. Like, we’re very inventive. But my parents, I was a little worried about them because they’re baby boomers, and they’re kind of more rigid and tough when it comes to really anything. And I think it was beautiful to see how proud they were of me. Of course there will be pain because it’s shown in the film, and there will be many other feelings, but I know the overriding feeling continues to be [love].

The Huntt Family Story in Beba as a Microcosm

Whereas Baby is extremely personal, it’s clear that Huntt’s parents are incredibly proud of their daughter and her film. “They were there in Toronto [the film festival]. They came to every Tribeca screening and every party, and they invited all of our family and their friends, and it continues to be a feeling of pride and love for them,” Huntt said.

Whereas Baby focuses on Huntt, his family and friends, and their lives, it also taps into these everyday experiences for universal treasures. The movie can sometimes be about Huntt’s relationship with his parents, but it can also be about everyone’s relationship with their parents, and Baby becomes “a microcosm for human existence”, agrees Huntt.

This is partly because the individual human subject is actually not very different from the “other”. “I think we’re a lot less unique than we actually think we are. I think the idea of ​​us feeling unique, I find it kind of comical. Because, it’s like we’re not so special.” Recognizing this kind of universality between each individual facilitates connection and empathy with someone else, which is the essence of Baby.


Beba documents the pains and pleasures of making connections

Some of the aforementioned pain in Baby, and also why it’s understandable to be so proud of the film, comes from its honest depiction of connectedness in a very broken world. “I feel like Baby was more about connecting to people,” says Huntt, something that is difficult but important. How do children connect with their parents? How does an immigrant’s experience connect with those of a different culture? How to overcome labels and identity politics while maintaining our own difference?

Baby is about all of this, and while it’s a cathartic experience (both painful and healing), it wasn’t the real motivation. “I don’t think I set it up [as a form of healing], because I feel like if it was, I would just go to therapy,” Huntt says. ‘existence. It came naturally, but I really wanted to connect with people in an authentic way and feel like I could create a life I was proud of and a community I was proud of.”


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Baby searches for this connection; even though each individual seems to be in a solipsistic silo of their own experiences, an ideological and cultural feedback loop, Huntt pursues the search for connection in the film as a way to break down barriers.

I think it transcends any kind of obsession with the categorical notions that we have as a global society. But I think in any situation there are going to be people who don’t understand your experience, but I don’t think that’s necessarily what makes or breaks community. I think it’s a willingness to understand, empathy, care and love. So in my mind, I didn’t have those people around me at the time. And I wanted to create and build on that community, on a community based on compassion and understanding because I didn’t even have that in my family, to be honest.

Rebeca Huntt’s optimism informs Beba

There is an inherent optimism to this pursuit that is expressed towards the end of Babywhen Huntt (who references a variety of artists and thinkers who are important to her throughout the film) quotes the great James Baldwin, who says, “To be pessimistic means that you have agreed that human life is a academic question. So, I am forced to be an optimist, I am forced to believe that we can survive, whatever we have to survive. This master of dark literature has redefined pessimism and optimism in much more human terms.

“That quote is so important to me in life in general,” Huntt says, “because that’s why I’m not an academic, and why I’m an artist because I’m so optimistic. I’m almost, like , too optimistic. I believe, I really believe in us, I really believe in humanity, and I deeply love human beings. And some of the things that happen in the world sadden men, they sadden me, but then I have to remember that human existence is not an academic matter, and this is just a moment of sadness. And I have to move on, you know?”


Let’s hope Huntt does. From Neon, and produced by Huntt and Sofia Geld, Baby is now in theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

About Herbert L. Leonard

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