Student film ‘Bris Me Goodbye’: a love letter to Judaism, Jewish culture

Elinor Howells yearns for Jewish culture to be portrayed in the media.

 

“As a Jewish person myself, I know that there are not a lot of Jewish stories out there,” said Howells, a screenwriting major from Washington D.C. “Whenever I see anything about a Jewish person in pop culture, I’m obsessed with it and I identify with it so much.”

 

This obsession led Howells to write “Bris Me Goodbye,” a film revolving around Rachel, a Jewish woman in a relationship with Colin — who is not Jewish — and the societal pressures surrounding them. While the plot is fictional, Howells used real-life examples to write the film.

 

“So many people at this school have this dilemma where they are Jewish and are dating a non-Jewish person and they do not know whether to take the relationship so seriously,” Howells, who is also the director, said. “I really wanted to tell this story.”

Film poster to promote “Bris Me Goodbye,” premiering next semester
Film poster to promote “Bris Me Goodbye,” premiering next semester Photo credit: Jack Vandermolen

 

Creating a love story that revolved around the Jewish community was one of the reasons why senior Allison Hochhauser, an entrepreneurship and business of motion pictures major from Rockville Centre, New York, decided to join as assistant producer and co-editor.

 

“Growing up as one of the very few Jewish people in my town, no one understood the cultural aspects of it,” Hochhauser said. “Being Jewish is so much more than it being a religion; it is literally a way of life.”

 

As assistant producer, Hochhauser led a fundraising campaign to secure actors, housing and locations to film. So far, she has raised $2,000, almost half their goal.

 

“We have cast from all over the country,” Hochhauser said. “We wanted to make their trip free because they are coming to film for us.”

Elinor Howells reveals cast for film over Zoom on Oct. 13, 2021
Elinor Howells reveals the cast of her film over Zoom on Oct. 13, 2021 Photo credit: Elinor Howells

 

Both Hochhauser and Howells wanted to have cast members from all over the country to better legitimize the film. According to Howells, it is usually frowned upon to only cast students or local actors.

 

“I have had professors tell me that it makes your film stand if it’s not all students,” Howells said. “Good acting is good acting regardless of where they are from.”

 

While filming just ended, Hochhauser and Howells plan to finish the final cut by the end of the year and premiere next semester at the University of Miami Hillel. After planning with Rabbi Lyle Rothman — who leads the Hillel congregation — the premiere will be catered with typical Jewish delicacies like bagels and lox.

 

“UM Hillel is the social, cultural and religious hub for Jewish life on campus,” Rothman said. “We want to be there to support our students in all aspects of their Jewish journeys such as hosting the premier of the film at Hillel.”

Cast and crew wrap up filming on Nov. 7, 2021
Cast and crew wrap up filming on Nov. 7, 2021 Photo credit: Ivy Howells

 

According to Howells, the term Bris, which is a male circumcision ceremony, has confused many people who are not familiar with Judaism. She says this confusion was the reason to include the tradition in the title.

 

“It was really important to me to have the title be almost like an inside joke to Jewish people,” Howells said. “This is a love letter to Judaism and Jewish culture and everyone who grows up being Jewish and wanting to see Jewish people on screen too.”