“Every once in awhile, I think it would be nice to have a bacon and tomato sandwich,” says Razie Brownstone, a 90-year-old woman, at the beginning of the short film Bacon & God’s Wrath. The statement is a fairly innocuous one, except for the fact that Brownstone has never had bacon. Raised in a conservative Jewish community, Brownstone kept kosher her entire life, but finally, after ninety years–the last two of which have been spent using the internet and “the Google”–Brownstone is finally ready to give the forbidden meat a try. Canadian filmmaker Sol Friedman was there to capture the moment. The result is a short film, directed and produced by Friedman that was awarded the Short Film Jury Award for nonfiction at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Friedman, who identifies as an anti-theist with a Jewish background, set out to make a movie about challenging religious and spiritual taboos, and needed to find a device to talk about these issues without scaring away an audience. “Unless you’re speaking in very broad positive terms, it’s hard to be critical and still keep people engaged,” Friedman explained in an interview. Brownstone’s story of trying bacon for the first time became a way to “soften the blow, make it relatable,” and over the course of the film’s nine minute run time, bacon becomes as much of a character as Razie herself.
If anything, bacon is the villain of the piece, the primary foe Brownstone must confront by the end. “In the beginning, the whole idea was that it’s this adversarial relationship for people of Jewish and Muslim faith,” said Friedman. “This is that big taboo you don’t talk about it, you don’t touch it, you certainly don’t eat it.” Much of Bacon & God’s Wrath is spent looking at why Brownstone adheres to this tradition even as her faith is falling apart, and eating bacon became representative of that. As she says herself in the film, “It’s a symbolic advancement of reason over faith.”
At the end of the day, said Friedman, “Bacon’s pretty wonderful, whether [Razie] feels that way or not. She’s open to experiencing that, and hopefully, other people will be too.” And as for Friedman, he and his wife have recently discovered untreated pork belly at a Korean grocery store near their home in Toronto, and it’s become a big component of nearly every meal, “not just for breakfast for us here. It makes its way into most things.” Including his movies.
Bacon & God’s Wrath will be playing at the IFC Center in New York City starting on June 17, as part of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, and the movie will continue to tour film festivals this summer. You can watch a trailer, below.