Tahara Stars Rachel Sennott and Madeline Gray DeFreece Disrupt a Funeral

Tahara is having its theatrical premier today at the Quad in New York City, and is set to have an expansive theatrical release in the coming weeks. The film, directed by Olivia Peace and written by Jess Zeidman, follows two young Jewish girls (Rachel Sennott and Madeline Gray DeFreece) during a funeral and its aftermath at their Hebrew school, and has recently received the coveted Critic’s Pick from The New York Times.

A dark comedy about sexual awakenings, death, and the teenage experience, Tahara is a unique film that intersects several voices and experiences, thanks to its diverse cast and crew, to tell a surprisingly funny and universal story. DeFreece expertly portrays the isolation and discomfort of being the only person of color in a predominantly white space, playing Carrie, the best friend of Rachel Sennott’s dominating character Hannah. In the following clip, the two best friends (who are about to embark on a painful journey of self-discovery which just might end their friendship) have a disruptive conversation during the funeral service of their classmate.


Director Olivia Peace has a relentless energy throughout the film, utilizing a variety of tactics to tell an engaging story and visualize the journeys of these characters. Here, she combines a clever use of subtitles, a tight 1: 1 aspect ratio, sudden bursts of sound, and amusing animation to depict the telling conversation in Zeidman’s script. DeFreece and Sennott are excellent even without saying a word of spoken dialogue.

Tahara Was a Long Time Coming, Says Zeidman

The film is making waves for its authentic portrayal of not just the Black or queer experience, but the teenage experience in general. Part of this honesty surely stems from Zeidman’s script, which she actually began as a 19-year-old. Zeidman says:

I started this script when I was 19 and terrified of not being a teenager anymore. I had lived my entire life, it seemed, longing to be a teen and the idea that I could no longer claim that identity forced me to reconsider what my identity was. I knew I was Jewish. I knew I was queer. I knew I wanted to make movies. So I immortalized this feeling in a script and convinced person after person to believe in it.

Related: Exclusive: Olivia Peace, Jess Zeidman, and Madeline Gray DeFreece Discuss the New Movie Tahara

Several of those people collaborated to get this independent film made, including director Peace and stars DeFreece and Sennott (who can also be seen in the Jewish comedy movie Shiva Baby). They shot Tahara at an actual synagogue, the one Zeidman once attended. The writer and executive producer continues:

We did something I really did not think we could do: convince the staff at my childhood synagogue, Temple Beth El in Rochester, NY to let us make the movie there. And generously, they agreed. We filmed around daily services and religious school classes. We put up sound blankets as the Temple was under construction the entirety of our shoot, and the walls were excavated to remove the decades worth of asbestos. We had $ 100,000, 15 days, and three lights: two real and one made out of a sheet pan.

Despite all this, the passion project came about and now, almost two years after filming has finished, Tahara is finally hitting theaters to widespread acclaim. You can find out more about Tahara and its upcoming screenings courtesy of Film Movement hereand you can watch a trailer below.

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