“Brave, stubborn, narcissistic.” With those three defiant words, Rebeca Huntt’s voiceover seems to preempt the critical response to Beba, her debut documentary that doubles as an impressionistic memoir. “From the early days of writing this film, I didn’t want Beba to be an archetype or a saint. Quite the opposite, she needed to be as unexceptional, as human as possible,” Huntt explains in an accompanying zine. The project is an eight-year odyssey, tracing her teenage discomfort with identity, through her years at Bard as a budding Afro-Latina artist, and back to her family’s rent-stabilized one-bedroom on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. (Her mother is Venezuelan, her father Dominican.) Huntt may be a newcomer, but her voice is warm and earthbound. “You are now entering my universe,” she says at the start of the documentary, sounding like an emcee to a lush, domestic-scaled circus. “I am the lens, the subject, and the authority.”
Huntt, at ease in the Zoom window, wearing a white tank top and gold nameplate necklace (Beba is a childhood nickname), brushes off any idea that such assuredness comes naturally. “I still consider myself shy, even though it seems weird,” she says, aware that baring one’s soul to a camera is an unusual expression of the trait. She credits the film with giving her the “sense of self-acceptance that I would’ve probably come to, for sure, maybe 20 or 30 years from now.”
The filmmaker, currently living in a mountain town an hour and a half outside Mexico City, is back in New York for a celebratory few weeks. When we speak, Beba has just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; encouraging reviews are pouring in from the New Yorker and the Times. For just about anyone—let alone a first-time filmmaker preparing for a theatrical release (Beba is now playing at Manhattan’s IFC Center)—it would be a disorienting spell of nerves and to-dos. But as Huntt lays out in this three-day wellness diary, she has strategies in place. “I can’t do anything unless I’ve exercised and meditated in the morning,” she says, underscoring how her art and well-being practices are inextricably linked.
“I carry an ancient pain that I struggle to understand,” Huntt says in the film, as she plumbs the family tensions. Are there ancestral coping mechanisms too? Psychedelics, for one, which Huntt says she took in a therapeutic way while editing Beba: “I was tripping on shrooms and sort of channeling different pains of my grandmother and my mom and myself and my sister.” An impossible-to-describe feeling came over her that “there was a floor, no matter what,” Huntt says. “There was a place for me to land.”
Monday, June 13
6:30 a.m.: I just sprang up and now it’s time for the gym. I went to sleep at around 10:30 p.m. last night, after a late walk along the park with my niece. The air felt dreamy and fresh, as did our conversation (she’s 16). Today is the first day of my big week: the New York premiere of my feature film, Beba, at Tribeca Film Festival. My film and I are finally coming home. For the past two and a half years, I have been living in a little mountain pueblo in Mexico, so coming back to New York feels intense but also beautiful. This will always be my first home, and it feels meaningful to walk these streets again in this new chapter of life, as grown-up “Beba,” a wiser and more reflective version of myself. I remind myself to stay as focused and present as possible. I’ve hired a trainer for the three weeks I’m in New York. Exercise is, for me, the most efficient and powerful form of therapy and self-love, so this is a must. My trainer’s name is Marc Lamar, and he’s awesome. I relish the boundary of having this training four days a week at 7 a.m.—it reminds me to prioritize caring for myself and not stay out too late!
8:20 a.m.: I just finished my workout. I chilled in the steam room for 10 minutes. At home in Mexico, most of my workouts are outdoors, so it feels luxurious to be able to hit the steam room, and I’ve been taking advantage of it every day as a mini detox. Then, of course, I have to stay hydrated for the rest of the day. My mother made a big deal about moisturizing since we were kids. I love my routine. I take a shower and use Dr. Bronner’s unscented soap (I have eczema / extremely sensitive skin), and then I moisturize with shea butter or coconut oil. Right now I’m using Shea Moisture’s Head-to-Toe 100% extra virgin coconut oil.
For my daily face routine I use Biossance everything. I’m obsessed with them. I start with the Squalene + Elderberry cleanser, then I do the toner, the Squalene + Omega repair cream, and the SPF 30 (which I love because it doesn’t leave white residue on my skin and it gives me a dewy look). Then I use the vitamin C rose oil.
10 a.m.: I try to fit in at least a half-hour of Vipassana every day. I’ve done a silent Vipassana retreat for the past two years, and it has really revolutionized how I approach my life. Meditation helps me stay grounded, present, and grateful. I’m proud of myself for doing the full hour today. Everything around me is high energy right now, and it is fascinating to observe my thoughts come and go, a lot of chatter up there. I end the meditation by reminding myself to give myself a lot of grace and love in this hectic and magical moment. I send love to my family and my team / colleagues.
11 a.m.: Just finished the breakfast I made for myself, which consisted of oatmeal pancakes, fruits, and two hard-boiled eggs. Going to take a quick shower, and head to the Tribeca photo shoot.