‘Cutting Film’ Takes Top Prize

By Sara Trappler Spielman

Published May 06, 2009, issue of May 15, 2009.
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A documentary exploring circumcision won the prize for best New York documentary April 30 at the Tribeca Film Festival Awards Ceremony, held at the Union Square Ballroom.


Celebrity chef and talk show host Rachael Ray presented the award to filmmaker Danae Elon for “Partly Private,” which had its world premiere at the festival.

In her film, Elon, who was born in Israel and now lives in New York, grapples with the debate over whether to circumcise her sons. While expecting her first boy and navigating the maze of baby products, Elon stumbles upon a group opposed to circumcision.

Elon never had given the issue much thought, and she is suddenly confronted with a choice that runs deeper than skin. Her husband, a French Jew from Algeria, has family memories of traditional brit milahs, while Elon and her secular Israeli parents feel no such connection.

“There were no circumcisions in my family album,” Elon says in the film. “My father boycotted anything remotely religious.”

Agreeing to a makeshift Jewish ceremony on the couple’s dining room table, Elon later regrets her decision and begins to research the reasons that people choose to circumcise. When she becomes pregnant again, she travels to Italy, Turkey, England and Israel to find clarity and meaning behind this tradition by tracing its various religious and cultural roots.

From a “Sex and the City” tour in New York City (where participants admit to preferring circumcised men) to an anti-circ march in Washington, where she meets men who have used devices to restore their foreskins, Elon sees it all. Yet she must confront her husband’s strong desire to circumcise.

“Our pick is a film that explores the relevance of tradition in today’s world,” Ray said at the ceremony, on behalf of fellow jurors Jon Robin Baitz, Mary Boone, Marc Ecko and Douglas Keeve.

Elon said she was “overwhelmed and surprised” to receive the award.

“It is difficult to carry into the world a film with a personal storyline,” Elon said in a press release. “The award is a real validation that the story is universal and that it will hopefully touch people regardless of their take on circumcision.”

Elon’s first feature documentary, “Another Road Home,” dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and premiered at the 2004 Tribeca festival.

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