Steven Spielberg. Barbra Streisand. Janicza Bravo.
In just naming those three Jewish directors, we’ve already hit on some of the best and most unique voices in filmmaking. But, as of late, there’s a new director to add to that proud Jewish lineage: Emma Seligman.
Seligman burst onto the scene in 2020 with her indie hit “Shiva Baby” (which renowned film critic @DoctorPissPants astutely called “‘Uncut Gems’ for hot, Jewish sluts“) following that up in 2023’s acclaimed “Fight Club” for queers, “Bottoms.”
In honor of the fact that this talented Jewish director is going places, here are 18 things to know about Emma Seligman.
1. Emma Seligman was born on May 3, 1995 in Toronto to a Jewish family.
2. She grew up in Toronto’s Reform Ashkenazi community.
3. Emma has an older sister named Lindsay, whom she has described as her “favorite person to get fucked up with at bat mitzvahs.”
4. Speaking of bat mitzvahs… Emma’s bat mitzvah party was on October 16, 2008 and the theme was filmmakers! Emma described the party favors in an interview, saying “They were an old plastic popcorn container from when you would go to the movies in the olden days. [Inside of them] each person got a different postcard for an old movie.”
5. Before that, her ceremony took place on Masada in Israel.
6. As a 17-year-old, she wrote a film review for “Spring Breakers” in The Huffington Post!
“If you do get into it, you throw all caution to the wind and just enjoy. That being said, ‘Spring Breakers’ is most definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, to say the least, as no Harmony Korine film is, ” Emma wrote.
7. Watching “Transparent” was one of the first times she felt authentic Jewish representation onscreen.
“I feel like Joey Soloway opened the door up for not just queer Jews but modern, nuanced [portrayals of] Jews who are semi-religious in a way that I feel only other Jews can relate to. There is nothing wrong with ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ or ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ but I just had never seen something so grounded,” Emma told Hey Alma.
8. She attended Northern Secondary School in Toronto, and studied film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. (She met frequent collaborator Rachel Sennott in college!)
9. Before “Shiva Baby” was a feature-length film, it was a short film. (And Emma’s senior thesis!)
10. Please enjoy this BTS photo from the short film shoot in 2017!
11. Here’s why Emma set the movie at a shiva:
“I had always wanted to do something at a shiva,” Emma told Hey Alma. “I always found them to be contrasting and funny settings because someone just died, but it still feels like every other Jewish family function in that there is lots of complaining and bragging and asking nosy questions and, you know, crossing boundaries and talking about the details of your colonoscopy and things like that. To me, that felt like any other Reform Ashkenazi setting.”
12. Emma (like the character Danielle) is also bisexual!
13. “Shiva Baby” won the 5781 Alma Award for Best Jewish movie! Here’s Emma’s acceptance speech:
(Peep her necklace which reads “Hannah” in Hebrew! Perhaps her Hebrew name?)
14. Barbra Streisand has seen “Shiva Baby” and talked to Emma about it!
“We scheduled a call that was rescheduled 40 times,” Emma told Vanity Fair about her conversation with Babs. “I was waiting by my phone, ready for her to call, and I finally was able to talk to her. That was pretty extraordinary. Barbra Streisand liked my movie and I got to talk to her, so I don’t really know where I go from here.”
15. Her favorite Jewish movies are: “Yentl,” “Keeping the Faith,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Kissing Jessica Stein,” “Crossing Delancey” and “A Serious Man.”
“Looking back, I don’t know how my Jewish film journey, how ‘Shiva Baby,’ would have come about without those movies, or what it would have been like without them laying the groundwork,” Emma wrote.
16. She looks great with a bottle of Manischewitz!
17. Though her second film “Bottoms” doesn’t tell a Jewish story, she plans on making more Jewish movies.
“I just want to continue to tell queer and Jewish stories on a bigger and bigger scale,” Emma told Harpers Bazaar.
18. To promote “Bottoms” she was on the cover of New York Magazine with the films’ stars Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri!
Your honor, it’s a serve.