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Tahara cover image

Tahara 2020


Distributed by Film Movement
Produced by Madison Ginsberg, Dasha Gorin, Mighty Oak, and Jess Zeidman
Directed by Oliva Peace
Streaming, 77 mins

High School - General Adult
Adolescents; Homosexuality; Judaism

Date Entered: 08/19/2022

Reviewed by Lorraine Wochna, Performing Arts Librarian, African American Studies/Literature, Ohio University

Tahara is a coming of age story; our characters, Hannah and Carrie come of age --- all in the course of one day. We open with Madeline Grey DeFreece (Carrie) and Rachel Sennott (Hannah) at a synagogue attending a funeral for a classmate who committed suicide. This is then followed by all students attending a session on grief and Judaism, directly after funeral, in order to help them share their feelings.

The use of a tragic event as the background for a variety of adolescent behaviors is heightened with some black comedy, a bit of gallows humor. There is a delightful scene during the funeral service while the Rabbi is reciting the Torah, very heartfelt, while Hanna and Carrie are having ‘mean girl’ conversations back and forth on a piece of paper. Ms. Peace could have used more of these moments. They help create and identify the simple reality that these characters are adolescents; and in this film, everyone’s identity is being scrutinized, by others and by themselves. They question their sexuality, their looks, their intelligence, their clothes - they are obsessed with their needs and at this moment, the world completely revolves around each of them.

But our focus is on Hannah, Carrie, and their friendship, which ultimately lands on shaky ground. Hannah is totally self-obsessed, and in exploring her sexuality, she’s up for anything. In her efforts to learn to be a ‘good kisser’, she experiments with Carrie, and awakens complicated sexual feelings in Carrie. Confusing conversations and misunderstandings erode the basis of their friendship.

The cinematography keeps to close-ups, two-shots, everything is in tight focus; a perfect complement to the self-obsessed worlds of Carrie and Hannah. Ms. Peace adds another element to the film, small animations and claymations appear when emotions run high; doodles fly off the paper, animations burst into the picture when Hannah and Carrie’s imaginations take off, when it comes to sex. These elements help create the world of Hannah and Carrie, they illuminate the immaturity of their feelings and actions at the same time skewing the film just a bit to keep us from taking it all too seriously.

Ms. Peace is early in her directing career, and the film reflects that just a bit in production value. The film would be good for most collections, especially public libraries, and undergraduate studies on gender.

Winner, Directorial Feature Debut Black LGBTQ+ Filmmaker Award, NewFest 2020; Winner, Special Mention, L.A. Outfest 2020; Winner, American Independent Award, Denver Film Festival 2021

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.