Hello, hello, hello. I am here to tell you that our regular deadline was yesterday. Fear not, avid young filmmakers. Her International Film Festival’s final deadline is still ahead of you. You have until August 29th to submit your films to us! That is just under three weeks from now!! Get working, and then submit your films here at our FilmFreeway.

As we have finished looking at last year’s winners, our Spotlight Series has come to an end. From now on, members of the HERIFF team will be looking at some of our favourite films directed by women in our HERIFF Reviews series.

Shiva, Baby

Shiva Baby (2021) was written and directed by Emma Seligman. She adapted it from the script of her short film of the same name. Starring Rachel Sennott, the film tells the story of Danielle. Danielle is a college student without direction who runs into Max, her sugar daddy at a Shiva (Jewish funeral service). A Shive she happens to be attending with her parents. Her ex-girlfriend Maya is also attending the Shiva, and things quickly spiral out of control; in Danielle’s head at least.

Comedy or horror?

Though Shiva Baby is marketed (according to IMDb) as a comedy, the score of the film tallies with horror more than any other genre. The strangled violins crank up the tension until the stakes feel higher even than life and death. Max’s new wife and baby have arrived at the Shiva, and what if she figures out that there’s something going on between him and Danielle? 

Feel the stress and do it anyway

The use of handheld cameras adds to the feeling of claustrophobia and airlessness. That tightness in your chest? It won’t be helped by older women at the Shiva. The ones continually questioning Danielle about her post-college career plans and her weight. Nor will it be helped by the disruption of Maya and Danielle’s will they/won’t they sexual tension. Which happens when Maya starts to figure out that there’s something going on between Danielle and Max. Not only do we see, but we also feel as she gets more and more stressed.

Rachel Sennott as Danielle in Shiva Baby

Things become outright ridiculous at the end, when Danielle’s father insists that he can fit Max, his wife, the baby, Maya and her mother and another elderly relative into their people-carrier. The journey home is painful, but also sweet and touching. This is actually a good way of describing Shiva Baby in general. Seligman’s film gives us a glimpse of the difficulties of navigating contemporary young-womanhood in an exceptionally tight-knit community.

Shiva Baby is available to stream on Mubi.