TNew York artist and filmmaker Rebecca Huntt makes her feature-length debut with this sentimental-free memoir documentary about discontent titled Beba – her childhood nickname. This reflects her complicated upbringing as an Afro-Latina woman whose Dominican father and Venezuelan mother aspiringly raised her and her two siblings in a tiny apartment in Central Park West. This leaves her with problems of family and class dysfunction, especially since she had to live in this increasingly chaotic household until adulthood.
A gifted student who fell in love with Shakespeare and Angelou and who became the center of a brilliant creative coterie at Bard College New York, Huntt discovered that the source of her inspiration as an artist must have been the unhealed wound. of his family history. Her upbringing emerges from this film as a turbulent and contested site in which the African and Latino sides are at loggerheads as well as with white condescension, a tension that she places in a larger context of racism, ideology, non-assimilation and a rhetoric of grievance.
The most revealing and, in its own way, uncomfortably funny interview is the one Huntt tries to film with her mother, who is clearly fantastically irritated by the perceived accusatory tone of questions about her children’s feelings about their African side and of the racism they were going to face. She looks miserable all over and Huntt says, “Mom, I know your micro-aggressive attitude isn’t cool.” But her mother thinks Huntt herself is too aggressive, and she concedes the point. Her father seems more satisfied with the filming process. In fact, he’s the smileiest and happiest person in the movie, though he’s unhappy with questions about Huntt’s brother, who he’s been calamitously falling out with.
Huntt says, “As a product of the New World, violence lives in my DNA,” and there might just be some truth to it, an inherited violence that is invisible to white students and contemporaries whose attitude of well-behaved liberal dismay infuriates her. .
The tone of the film is sometimes a little opaque. There’s mildly cliched 16mm footage of subway scenes and indulgent home movies and Huntt’s own voiceover has something from the student graduation piece to it. But there is a rich and dense texture in this very questioning personal film.