Brave, stubborn, narcissistic." With these three provocative words, Rebecca Hunter's off-panel voice seems to preempt critical responses to Beba, whose debut documentary 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 contrary, she needed to be as ordinary and as human as possible," Hunt explained in the accompanying magazine. The project is an eight-year adventure that traces her years as an up-and-coming Afro-Latin artist at Bard, as well as her rent-stabilized one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, to her discomfort with identity as a teenager. (Her mother is Venezuelan; her father is Dominican.) Hunter may be a newcomer, but her voice is warm and grounded. "You are entering my universe now," she says at the beginning of the documentary, sounding like the emcee of a lush domestic circus. "I am the lens, the subject and the authority."
Relaxed in a Zoom window in a white tank top and gold nameplate necklace (Beba is a childhood nickname), Hunter is unconcerned that such confidence comes naturally. "I still think of myself as shy, as strange as that may seem," she says, realizing that exposing her soul to the camera is an unusual expression of that trait. She credits the film with giving her "a sense of self-acceptance that I'm sure I'll get in 20 or 30 years.
The filmmaker, who currently lives in a small mountain town an hour and a half outside of Mexico City, has been back in New York for a few weeks to celebrate. As we speak, Beba has just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; encouraging reviews from The New Yorker and The Times are pouring in. For almost anyone - let alone a filmmaker preparing for its first release (Beba is now playing at Manhattan's IFC Center) - it would be a bewildering spell of nerves and to-do lists. But as Hunter lays out in this three-day wellness diary, she developed strategies accordingly. "I can't do anything unless I exercise and meditate in the morning," she says, emphasizing how her art and health practices are inextricably linked.
"I carry an ancient pain that's hard to understand," Hunter says in the film, as she probes family tensions. Are there also ancestral coping mechanisms? Psychedelics, for one, which Hunter says she embraced in a therapeutic way while editing Beeba: "I tripped over mushrooms and kind of channeled the different pains of my grandmother, my mom, myself and my sister." Hunter says she had the indescribable feeling that "there was always a floor, no matter what." "There was somewhere for me to land."
Monday, June 13
6:30 a.m.: I just got up and now it's time to go to the gym. Last night I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. My niece and I took a very late walk in the park. The air felt dreamy and fresh and so did our conversation (she's 16). Today is the first day of my big week: the New York premiere of my feature film, "Beeba," at the Tribeca Film Festival. My film and I are finally coming home. I've been living in a small mountainous area of Mexico for the past two and a half years, so it feels intense to be back in New York, but also wonderful. This will always be my first home, and it feels meaningful to walk these streets again in this new chapter of my life, as a grown-up "Beba," a wiser, more reflective version of myself. I reminded myself to stay as focused and present as possible. I hired a trainer for the three weeks I was in New York. For me, exercise is the most effective and efficient form of therapy and self-love, so it was a must. My trainer's name is Marc Lamar and he is great. I love doing this workout 4 days a week at 7am - it reminds me to prioritize taking care of myself and not leaving it too late!
8:20 a.m.: I just finished my workout. I chilled in the steam room for 10 minutes. At home in Mexico, I do most of my workouts outdoors, so it feels luxurious to be able to go to the steam room, which I use every day to detox. Then, of course, I have to stay hydrated for the rest of the day. Ever since we were kids, my mom has been really big on hydration. I love my routine. I take a shower, use Dr. Bronner's unscented soap (I have eczema/extremely sensitive skin) and then moisturize with shea butter or coconut oil. Right now I'm using Shea Moisture head-to-toe 100% extra virgin coconut oil.
For my facial routine, I use Biossance for everything. I'm obsessed with them. I start with Squalene + Elderberry Cleanser, then Toner, Squalene + Omega Repair Cream and SPF 30 (I love it because it doesn't leave a white residue on my skin and it makes me look hydrated). Then I use Vitamin C Rose Oil.
10 a.m.: I try to attend at least half an hour of internal observation every day. For the past two years, I've had a silent internal meditation retreat and it has really revolutionized the way I approach my life. Meditation has helped me stay grounded, live in the moment and be grateful. I am proud of myself for completing a full hour today. Everything around me is high energy now and it is fun to watch my thoughts come and go, there is a lot of chatter there. I ended the meditation by reminding myself to give myself lots of grace and love during this busy and magical time. I send love to my family and my team/colleagues.
11am: Just finished the breakfast I made for myself, which included oatmeal pancakes, fruit and two hard-boiled eggs. Off to take a shower and then to Tribeca to take pictures.
11:30am: I put on a halter dress so I don't ruin my outfit. My dress is actually another vintage halter dress (I love them!) ), but this one is made of an obnoxiously delicate silk. I wanted to make sure it wouldn't wrinkle on the bike. I like to pair fragile, feminine silks with other tougher-looking pieces - cropped t-shirts, military boots - to balance out the effect. Today, I chose one of my father's T-shirts, something I've loved since I was a kid, and it makes me feel empowered to let this beloved relic of my childhood enhance my adult fashion style. I loved wearing what felt like a visual symbol of who I was. When I get there, I put it all together. Off to the shoot!
1:15 p.m.: The shoot comes and goes. That was really fun! The team was great at making me feel comfortable and having fun. Hopefully we'll get some good shots for the press. Later on, I'll do some virtual interviews with Beba and me for the premiere. I have 45 minutes before we start …… You know what that means: Power Nap!
4:30 pm: I'm going to walk from my Airbnb to my dad's house - just ten blocks away. He promises me a nice home-cooked meal: steak with rice and mushrooms. I try to stay away from meat other than chicken and fish, but I'll never turn down my dad's steak. He's the second best cook, Mom is number one, although he does a lot of things better than she does (sorry!) . I'm going to a lot of events and movies tonight, so it's good to be full! I have an introverted side to myself and protect my happiness around other people, but I can also be very agreeable and happy to meet strangers. I'm going all out for the latter tonight.
10:17 p.m.: I'm in bed. It's a great day. My face is freshly washed. I use the same Biossance regimen, except at night I don't use SPF; I switch to a night serum immediately after cleansing. At one of the parties, [my agent] Rena [ Ronson] and I played ping pong - it's fun to balance conversation and socializing with something that requires complex hand-eye coordination! Tomorrow's the big day: the premiere of Beeba in New York! I'm going to watch an episode of Bridgerton Season 2, and then …… I'll take a break.
Tuesday, June 14
8:02 am: Great workout today. It kept me on my feet and stayed in my body in a way that made me feel self-absorbed. Keeping my body strong keeps my spirit strong. Okay, time to go to the sauna! With all the noise around me, I tried to continue to listen to myself carefully. I've been waiting for this day for a long time.
10:00am: I attend an hour of internal viewing as well as some gratitude statements and affirmations. Yo, tonight is my New York premiere of AAAAHH. before tonight's premiere, I participated in a panel discussion about Latino voices in the documentary space. I'm excited to have such a dynamic conversation with talented filmmakers and I'll be thinking about what I want to say and how I want to approach the discussion. Well, I'm going to make myself some oatmeal pancakes now 🙂
3:07 pm: I just got home from the panel and am still feeling energized. One of the attendees posted that she took the 5am train to NYC to get there, and another told me that she switched shifts with a colleague so she could go. Meeting people and continuing the conversation after an event like this is my favorite part. This car came to pick me up for my premiere at 4 p.m. Sooooo a 20-minute nap? I think it's great. Almost there. Oh my gosh, Beba is in New York! Can't wait to celebrate with the rest of the team.
4:38 p.m.: I'm in my car on the road. I ask the driver if I can connect my phone so I can play Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" (extended version), a song that helps me get into the game. Fortunately, my driver is also a big fan.
2:07am: Today was incredible. There was so much love. It means a lot to me that everyone from different times in my life had to be with me on this special day - in a way it felt like a wedding! My parents had to walk down the aisle with me, and I am so proud to have shared this experience with them. I imagine myself telling my 10-year-old, 13-year-old and 23-year-old selves. The thought made me cry. It was all worth it. Thank you, Pachamama. I am so proud of myself, my parents and my team. I texted my coach to ask if we could cancel the session tomorrow. Discipline is important to me, but practicing grace this week is a goal, and I'm going to let myself have that.
Wednesday, June 15
9 a.m.: This is the latest time I've woken up in a long time, and my first reaction was to feel sick. But then I remembered: Grace, Rebecca, Grace. It's a time for celebration, rest and indulgence.
9:45 a.m.: The discomfort dissipates and I begin to remember the moments of the night, flipping through my phone to see pictures and responding to texts, expressing my gratitude to the people I spent the night with and paying tribute to the many ways they helped me and supported me along the way. My distribution team was incredible. They were all very collaborative and creative and made me feel listened to and cared for throughout the process. I feel very fortunate for that.
10:17am: I did some yoga poses and breathing exercises. I told my mom I would see her and my niece at my favorite Dominican restaurant on the Upper West Side. This is where my mom took me for an egg sandwich on a special occasion, and I've always associated it with my favorite childhood accomplishment, which is the most rewarding. Now I can give my mom (and my nieces!) It feels especially special to buy an egg sandwich to continue the tradition after so many years.
11:30 a.m.: Back from breakfast, although my niece Shanti has a hard time leaving. She is 5 years old and is my favorite person. I haven't hung out with her enough since I've been here because she's too young to watch my movies, but I'm glad we'll have more time to catch up in the next few days. Flush into the shower and get ready for some virtual interviews I'll be conducting via Zoom.
3 p.m.: I just finished my interview, thanks to the thoroughness of these questions! I often get a lot of the same questions about the film, and I'm happy to answer them, but I love hearing someone interpret the film in a new way or seeing something that feels unique to them personally. Now that I have some free time: I'm going to make my go-to smoked salmon salad and honestly, I'm just dancing around my Airbnb because GAAAAAH ！！！！ last night was glorious. I've been receiving videos and photos all day and I finally had time to look at them.
8:30 pm: My mom and I just got back from watching a screening of "Our Father, the Devil" written and directed by Ellie Foumbi. It was so wonderful and original. I'll be thinking about it for a while. I'm taking a virtual yoga class at 9pm with my yoga instructor. She's in Mexico City. She's the best.
10:48pm: I had to pause yoga with Karli for two minutes because fireworks started going off outside. I had the perfect view! I have a childlike love for fireworks, even though I know they are super bad for the planet. I was just talking to my mom on the phone and she told me she and my dad were having a great time at the Tribeca Film Festival. Hearing that song in her voice, which my mother and father enjoyed, means everything to me. I will sleep well tonight.