SXSW: Emma Seligman’s ‘Shiva Baby’ Details How Sex and Family Can Awkwardly Intertwine

Newcomer Emma Seligman’s SXSW premiering short film ‘Shiva Baby’ is a sharp and witty examination of the intersectionality between family and romantic life in the 21st century

Finding love in the big city is a notoriously difficult undertaking. It’s never as simple or carefree as movies make them out to be. It’s a overwhelming task that is only made increasingly more difficult by the perpetual disappointments and social missteps in today’s topsy-turvy dating world. Whether it’s the neverending dates or the seemingly ceaseless run-in with moronic, vain people, the dating world is a regular who’s who of disasters in human form. It’s a system that seemingly hinges itself on the insecurity of individuals needing to find acceptance and emotional stability. And more often than not, people seem to just, well, settle. That is, before the 21st century brought in “disruptive” apps that upend everything we know (or thought we knew) about dating.
With apps like Tinder and Bumble finding mainstream success, millenials and even a few generation X-ers are cozying up to the dating service that allows individuals to select prospective dates based on emotionally-disconnected swipes. It’s a system that works perfectly in a world in which time is increasingly finite and valuable. Oh, and maybe because people just want to screw and not think too much of the consequences. But then there are the other apps that blur the lines between hook-up culture and straight-up sugar daddy culture. And that can become increasingly more overwhelming and complicated when one’s family is somehow mixed-up with your romantic life as is the case in Emma Seligman’s excellent short film, Shiva Baby.
After a “sugar daddy” meet with Max, Danielle leaves to sit Shiva for one of her distant relatives only to find that Max is in attendance as well. Before long, Danielle begins to realize that her parents know Max quite well. As Danielle learns more about Max’s personal life, she starts to grow increasingly more uncomfortable with each new revelation. Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby was originally conceived as her thesis film in NYU’s Film and TV Production. But after support from advisors and professors, Seligman realized that she might have a real gem on her hands. Thankfully, SXSW has recognized the film’s focus, conviction, and adept profilmic approach, with the film set to hit the festival during its run in March.
Shiva Baby earnestly explores this discomforting intermix, utilizing tight dialogue and well-developed characterization to build a funny, charming, and uneasy short film that is as personal as it is relatable. From the personable camera work to the attention to the minutiae of the diegetic world, Shiva Baby is a standout short film that oscillates between social commentary and gut-busting comedy. Be sure to keep your eyes out for Seligman’s future projects for if this film is any indicator, this up-and-coming filmmaker will surely be a star.
Shiva Baby is set to have its World Premiere at SXSW in its Narrative Shorts selection. Be sure to check out the film’s website ( for updates on screenings.
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