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From the Cutting-Room Floor:
Circumcision in the Movies
2.

In general, films made in the US support circumcision, running two contradictory themes: : - Only Jews are circumcised
- All males are circumcised
Films made outside the US treat circumcision more as a strange custom or symptom of disorder. They emphasise the pain, both physical and emotional.

 

Contents
Entertainment A-L
Entertainment M-Z
Documentary
The Stage

 

Entertainment M-Z
Mambo Italiano
Canada, 2003
Comedy about a young Italian-Canadian (Luke Kirby) coming out to his parents. They tell the parents of his hunky cop lover, Nino (Peter Miller), ending their affair. To prove his heterosexuality Nino marries, and at the wedding, the priest (Michel Perron) says: "I have known Nino all his life: I baptised him; I gave him his first communion; and when he hit puberty and started to have certain problems caused by his rapidly increasing, um, size, it was I who advised him to be circumcised."

(Reviewers disagree over whether the gay and Italian stereotypes are sympathetic or tedious, but the movie was named sixth worst for the year 2003 by David Eliott of the San Diego Union-Tribune :

6. Ethnic humor came canned and clotted in the sitcom revels of "Mambo Italiano." Cute Eye-talians pig on pasta, slap each other on the side of the head, are freaked by gay offspring, then turn PC as if by remote control. It came from Canada (or hell) and has a Catholic priest telling a circumcision joke at a wedding.

Circumcision is just used as an embarassing personal detail to illustrate the priest's crassness. There is of course no problem caused by rapidly increasing, um, size that necessitates circumcision.

Man of Steel
US, 2013
The infant Superman-to-be is again shown circumcised.
Baby Superman, circumcised
Other anomalous circumcisions.
Meet the Fockers
USA, 2005

(Farce, sequel to "Meet the Parents", in which the name in the title is milked for far more than it was ever worth)

Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) and his bride-to-be and uptight inlaws (Robert DeNiro and Blythe Danner) meet Gaylord's sexually liberated parents (Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand) for the first time and stay at their house.

Over a very tense first meal Mrs Focker whips out her scrapbook of Gaylord's childhood. She comes (0:36) to a picture of a rabbi holding a baby and starts describing Gaylord's bris. The Fockers gleefully tell how the heater was broken that winter and the mohel couldn't get "the turtle to come out of its shell." As Gaylord protests, they continue that that is why he ended up with a "semi-circ ... a cross between an anteater and a..." "...German army helmet."

His mother-in-law to be picks a little ring of something out of the scrapbook and says "Don't say you kept his umbilical cord?" Mrs Focker exclaims, "Of course not, that's Greg's foreskin!" Gaylord tries to wrest the book from them, but accidentally swats the foreskin: it flies up and falls into the simmering fondue that the family was eating.

As with Mambo Italiano, circumcision is presented only as something embarassing and personal. The issue is talking about it, not having done it, even badly. A baby's glans is fused to his foreskin and can not be made to come out without force. Incomplete circumcision can result in phimosis (because of the scar tissue) requiring further treatment. Parents do not get to keep the foreskin after a brit milah - nor would they want to.

Life imitates art:

Man's foreskin kept in baby book - Facebook

- Lauren-Ann Spanopoulos on Facebook, July 27, 2013

Moolaadé
Senegal/France, 2004

A strong-willed woman (Fatoumata Coulibaly) from an African village battles against, and takes great pains to prevent, ritual female circumcision.

One contributor to the Internet Movie Database summarizes it as:

"Six girls from a rural village in Burkina Faso escape from a 'purification' ceremony, the female circumcision ritual that is still practiced in 34 of the 58 nations in the African Union. Two head for the city. The other four know of a woman in the village who, some years earlier, had prevented her own daughter from being cut. They run to her home, where she is the second of three wives of a man whose brother is a figure in the town's power structure. To protect them, she pronounces a moolaadé, an unbreakable spell of sanctuary that can only be dissolved by her word, and which is marked simply by stretching some colored strands of yarn across the enclave's doorway. ... this remarkable motion picture [is] beautifully filmed & amazingly acted, full of agitprop theatrics & yet as tightly & deeply scripted - I mean this literally - as any Shakespearean tragedy. [It] won the Un Certain Regard award [for 2004] at Cannes & was relegated to the Planet Africa series at Turin...." Male genital cutting is not mentioned, though in the Muslim environment of the film it would be virtually universal.
Movie 43
US, 2013
Compliation/thriller/horror about a movie (called "Movie 43") that if shown will cause the end of the world.

In the segment called "Truth or Dare", Donald (Stephen Merchant) and Emily (Halle Berry) are on a date together at a Mexican restaurant. Tired with typical first dates, Emily challenges Donald to a game of truth or dare. She dares him to grab a man's buttocks, and he follows by daring her to blow out the birthday candles on a blind boy's cake.

Donald: Truth

Emily: I am going to push the limits here just a little bit. Are you circumcised?

Donald (embarassed, whispering): Am I circumcised? That's personal... Circumcision has never taken off where I'm from. It's not, you know, the vogue. Um, I tend to associate it with Jewish people and we don't have many Jewish people in Europe any more because of... the trouble. So, ah, no. But if you would need me to get circumcised, I'm sure I... (trails off as they both chuckle.)

The game rapidly escalates to extremes, in which both of them get plastic surgery and tattoos, and humiliate themselves.

Circumcision is presented as an example of extreme behaviour - when it's done to a consenting adult.

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer
India, 2002
Drama

A young Hindu woman, Meenakshi Iyer (Konkona Sensharma), is travelling on a bus, entrusted to the care of a young supposedly Hindu man, Raja (Rahul Bose). The bus is attacked by Hindu estremists looking for Muslims, who they identify by making them drop their pants (revealing that they are circumcised) and kill. Meenakshi identifies Raja as her husband and he is spared, but it transpires that he is actually a Muslim, creating conflict with her strict Brahmin upbringing.

Circumcision is only an identifier.

Mrs Goundo's Daughter
US, 2010

Official summary: Bridging two worlds, MRS GOUNDO'S DAUGHTER tells the moving story of one Malian mother's fight for asylum in the US to protect her two-year-old daughter from female genital cutting. Expertly interweaving scenes from Mali of girls preparing for an excision ceremony and scenes from Philadelphia where those who have survived the ceremony share their stories, the film demonstrates precisely why and how Mrs Goundo fights for her daughter and her future.

Mrs. Henderson Presents
UK, 2005
Recently widowed, well-to-do Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) is at a loose end in Depression-era London. On a whim she buys the derelict Windmill theatre in the West End. Her lawyer friend Leslie Pearkes (Ralph Nossek) suggests impresario Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to run it. When she arrives 20 minutes late for her appointment with him, he is on the point of leaving.

Mrs Henderson: Who on earth are you?
Pearkes: This is Vivian Van Damm
Mrs Henderson: Don't be silly. That's not a British name.
Van Damm (irritated): In actual fact, my father is a lawyer in Bishopsgate, although some of his ancestors are from Holland.
Mrs Henderson: Oh dear God, you're Jewish.
Van Damm: As it happens, I'm not.
Mrs Henderson: But of course you are, dear; just look at yourself. But the show business is filled with Jewish people, isn't it. One must make do.

To encourage the shy showgirls, all the production team including Van Damm have taken their clothes off, when Mrs Henderson bursts in on them. Seeing him, she says:

"Why Mr Van Damm! You are Jewish!"

Later, she sees a headline he has tossed aside, "NAZIS ROUND UP DUTCH JEWS", and asks after his family, building the positive side of their stormy relationship.

Implying that all and only Jews are circumcised, though many upper-class Englishmen of this period were too. The exchanges are intended to illustrate her rudeness and antisemitism, common in England at that time. It is not clear how Mrs Henderson would know what a circumcised penis looks like.

Mukhbir
Informer
India, 2006
Bollywood film about espionage in the Hyderabad underworld.

Sammir Dattani plays a mukhbir (informer) who has to assume various disguises - so many that you don’t know his real identity. He poses as a Muslim and there is a suggestion that he has undergone circumcision, because a gang that only allows Muslim members will put him through a lot of tests.

In India only Muslims are circumcised. In fact of course it would be very difficult to pass as Muslim without also being fluent in Arabic, knowing a lot of the Qu'ran, etc.

Thanks to NORM-UK

Munich
USA, 2005
Two Israeli undercover men are assigned to kill Palestinians responsible for the Munich massacres. They get into an argument; one says, "He's probably a spy - let's take his pants down and have a look." (an insult, not seriously believed). The second man responds furiously.

If he had been Muslim, he would have been circumcised too.

My Australia
Moja Australia Israel, 2011

Ten-year-old Tadek (Jakub Wroblewski), a member of a Polish gang that preys on Jews, is floored when his mother admits she's a Holocaust survivor. So when she prepares the family to relocate to Israel, she tells the boy they're going to the exotic country he's always dreamed of: Australia. Tadek['s] ease at assimilating leaves him feeling both guilty and confident. His prowess becomes crucial as the film shifts its focus to Tadek's shame at being intact.

... Using male genitalia as a symbol for the immigrant experience could fill volumes for Freud, but it creates useless, unsettling moments for audiences forced to watch a gaggle of Israeli children trying to catch Tadek with his pants down. It’s an ill-considered plot twist from which Drozd’s slapdash film never recovers.

- Michael Gold in City Paper, March 24, 2012

(Perhaps the reviewer's own discomfort with the issue colours his experienc.)

My wife is an Actress
Ma femme est une actrice
France, 2001
Yvan (Yvan Attal, who also wrote and directed) is a sports writer, jealous of his wife Charlotte (Attal's real-life partner Charlotte Gainsbourg)'s on-camera love scenes (with Terence Stamp). His pregnant sister Nathalie (Noémie Lvovsky) "more Jewish than your brother", browbeats her gentile husband Vincent (Laurent Bateau):

Vincent (on the phone): Let's ask your brother.
Nathalie: There's no problem. If he's a boy, he's circumcised.
Vincent: Find out if he's a boy.
Nathalie: What's the difference?
Vincent: You'd circumcise a girl? There's only a problem if it's a boy.
...

(In a doctor's office: we see an ultrasound image of a baby.)
Doctor: It's a boy.
Vincent: Great! A little boy!
Nathalie: Don't pretend.
Doctor: For a dad, nothing like a girl.
Nathalie: Dr Djaoui. You're Jewish.
Vincent: What? Talk now?
Nathalie: He's a doctor.
Vincent: Let's talk to a goy doctor.
Nathalie: That exists?
...

(Back home)
Nathalie: So he'll feel Jewish and inadequate?
Vincent: Right, so let him decide to do it or not.
Nathalie: At a certain age, it's hard.
Vincent: That'll be a measure of how Jewish he feels.
Nathalie: Could you do it now?
Vincent: Why have my dick cut?
Nathalie: To have one like your son.
Vincent: I want him to have one like me.
Nathalie: Your son in your own image? Like you're God?
Vincent: Why shouldn't he?
Nathalie: Get circumcised. (pause) I'm serious.
Vincent: On the way home from the game. (pause) Pass me the phone, I'll make the appointment. (She passes it.) What's it listed under? (He dials.) Hello, yeah. Your sister's nuts!

In the main story, parallel tit-for-tattery: Charlotte demands that if she is to be naked in a love scene, all the cast and crew must also. Yvan walks onto the soundstage with flowers, sees them all and faints. He goes to drama classes and other students flirt with him. (At Vincent and Nathalie's. Yvan is talking to Nathalie when Vincent arrives.)
Nathalie: Your son is Jewish because his mother is.
Vincent: For the Jews.
Nathalie: For the goys too! Enough to send him to the camps!
...

(Yvan and Nathalie are at dinner with their parents. Nathalie answers the phone and leaves the table.)
Nathalie: In the US lots of non-Jews... So a doctor can do it. (She returns to the table. Yvan has been telling his parents that he and Charlotte are living apart.) So how about me? Since your son married an actress, it's like he's Mr Perfect. I'm going to have a little boy. We argue every day about one of the world's great problems [presumably Jewish-gentile relations in general, not just circumcision], and it's all him. Fuck the little people!
Mother: The mouth on her!
Yvan: Enough!
Nathalie: When they gas six million actresses, then we'll talk.
...

(Vincent and Nathalie are in bed. They begin to make love. Nathalie goes down under the covers. Vincent smiles blissfully.)
Vincent: Pretty good foreskin, huh?
Nathalie: Asshole! (She slaps him.)
...

(Vincent and Yvan are at a football game, ogling woman spectators.)
Yvan: Do it for her. It bothers you so much?
Vincent: I'm not Jewish, or religious.
Yvan: So who cares?
Vincent: It's a religious thing. She goes to the Synagogue once a year.
Yvan: It's sentimental. We all have to be white, uncircumcised...?
Vincent: We are all the same.
...
Yvan: Just have your son circumcised.

Charlotte and Yvan are reconciled and Nathalie and Vincent's son is born. Charlotte greets him by name, Moses. (In the hospital)
Vincent (to Yvan): We're having him circumcised. ... I've never cut myself so much. [?]
Nathalie: Just cut it off once and for all. (They begin to argue and Yvan and Charlotte leave.)

Predictibly, circumcision is only a token for the conflict between a husband and wife to counterpoint the conflict between the main couple. The value of a foreskin to its owner is not touched on.

Naked Boys Singing
USA, 2007
Film of the stage show with these variations:.

In the song "Bliss of a Bris" the mohel carries a huge pair of shears and one cast member turns away to vomit as the "baby" is circumcised.
The credits include:

No penises were injured during the cutting of this film.
www.nocirc.org
The Nativity Story
USA, 2006
You know the story...

A couple of wide-eyed boys witness the circumcision of the baby John the Baptist. A little knife goes beneath the bundled boy. There is a flick of the wrist, the two boys give a startled jump and scurry off.

...typically minimising and trivialising what actually happens. Some reviewers call this "an amusing bit".

Nine Dead Gay Guys
UK, 2002
(A UK "Bob & Ted's Excellent Adventure" meets "Father Ted")
Two down-and-out Irish youths in London batten on gay men to get some money, using sex and/or theft. (The film is perceptive about their own sexualities. Penis-size is a theme, but none are shown.) The film deliberately includes every stereotype - queens, a fat ferocious lesbian, an ill-hung and hence desperate dwarf, four well-hung blacks, a rich Orthodox Jew - and "Dick-cheese Deepak" an Indian taxi-driver with a "foreskin problem". It has not retracted in five years, and he has not had oral sex for the same time. One youth gags, the other solves the problem by filling his mouth with vodka, but Deepak's reaction is so intense that he crashes the taxi, becoming Dead Gay Guy #5.

US readers should note that the existence of Deepak's foreskin is not at issue, only its non-retractility.

Nine Months
US, 1995
Comedy about a reluctant father. Has had generally poor reviews.
Rebecca Taylor (Julianne Moore) gives birth to a boy at the same time as Gail Dwyer (Joan Cusak) gives birth to a girl, in spite of the assistance of Dr Kosevich (Robin Williams). Samuel Faulkner (Hugh Grant) and Marty Dwyer (Tom Arnold), the fathers, encounter the doctor outside the nursery. Samuel asks him if he has been drinking. He replies that he has, and they should have a shot together, "but first, I'm just going to circumcise your son." and starts to go into the nursery. Samuel: What?
Marty: Shit!
Samuel: Dr. Kosevich! (Samuel runs to stop him.)

The film makers imply the additional risk is the only reason he should be stopped, perhaps not knowing that British fathers now almost never have their sons circumcised.

Omskåret
(Circumcised)
Denmark, 2014

Short film. Two young men are driving on a motorway, one (Jakob Svensmark Møller) urgently needing a comfort-stop. He is obsessive-compulsive, the other (Jonathan Harboe Moreira) the reverse.

Complete video (12:30 Themes may disturb)

circumcised from Møn Studio on Vimeo.

Tellingly, the circumcised man is "dirty", the intact one "clean". (Hitler and John Lennon were not circumcised. Anders Breivik, who knows?)

Onikola
Nigeria, 2014

Onikola is the story of Kumbi (Funmi Fiberesima), who has a firm resolve to not to be circumcised. She sacrifices everything, including her love for Okiki (Sunday Afolabi), and risks be­ing rejected by her people, most of all her mother, Abebi (Bunmi Olatilewa).

Meanwhile, on the flip side is Omose­wa (Ronke Ojo), who is circumcised and suffers ridicule at the hands of her hus­band. She however develops the courage to express her feelings about a tradition which challenges her sexuality.

The Sun (Nigeria)), October 12, 2014

"Actress, producer and media personality... Funmi Fiberisima's first film as a producer.... Onikola brings to light the harmful side effects of female circumcision without flogging the viewers over the head with the message. It is a very entertaining-romantic movie as well as complete with all the elements that bring it home as a unique and entertaining movie. ...the movie weaves a blend of iconic and traditional scenes with the compelling story of love without losing sight of the issues at stake."

The Guardian (Lagos), October 3, 2014

Pecker
US, 1998
Dir. John Waters

Tina (Martha Plimpton) is an MC/barmaid at a gay go-go club who describes the dancers' biographies and statistics on a microphone for the patrons in lurid detail. She refers to one of them as "uncut" - clearly meaning it as a positive and desirable attribute.

The Perfumed Nightmare
[Mababangong bangungot]
Philippines, 1977
In this autobiographical fantasy, the narrator (Kidlat Tahimik), a boy growing up in the Philippines, is circumcised with his friends, in accordance with custom.
Circumcision in ''The Perfumed Nightmare''

Includes closeups, not for the squeamish.

Platoon
USA, 1986

Drama set in Vietnam.

Dialogue includes:

All right, you cheese-dicks, welcome to the Nam.
I ain't getting greased, so you keep this sorry cheese-dick off my ass!
Hey... cheese-dick, you're up.
and Come on, get your dick-skin on that thing! Dig! You ain't got all day! Dig! Dig!

Clearly "cheese-dick" is an all-purpose insult - implication: "The foreskin is disgusting" - and none of the lines refers to actual circumcision status.

I got my request in for a circumcision! I'm gonna get my big ass outta here!
You gonna become a rabbi?

Implying only Jews circumcise.

The Player
USA, 1992

Self-referential drama set in Hollywood

On the original Criterion DVD release, director Robert Altman and writer Michael Tolkin give a running commentary. In the scene where Griffin Mills (Tim Robbins) is climbing, naked, from a mud bath, Tolkin says,

"A lot of people don't know this but when I wrote the character, I wrote it for an uncircumcised man. Unfortunately, Tim Robbins is circumcised, but he wanted the role really badly so we had to get a prosthetic foreskin built for him for this scene. Look how fake it looks."

Tim Robbins climbs from a mud bath in The PlayerTim Robbins' penis (with prosthetic?) in The Player
The prosthetic
seems to have
added nothing.
Nothing in the book or film requires the character to be intact. While several other characters in the book with whom Griffin is at odds have Jewish names, there is no direct reference to Judaism, and of course to be gentile in the USA does not guarantee intactness. The unpleasant thought arises that Tolkin wanted Griffin to be intact because he is an unsympathetic chracter.

Porky's II: The Next Day
USA, 1983

Juvenile comedy

The boys of Angel High are being harassed by the KKK, among others, for casting Seminole boy John Henry (Joseph Runningfox) as Romeo in their Shakespeare evening.

They lure the Klansmen into the gym, surrounded by Indians, where a Jewish teen, Brian (Scott Colomby) "circumcises" them - shaves their heads with a "zimel" (izmel?) and perhaps really circumcises them.

An assumption is that only Jews circumcise or are circumcised. An implication is that circumcision cures them of their bigotry ... somehow.

A Price Above Rubies
US, 1998
Sonia Horowitz (Renee Zelweger) is a Jewish mother who is questioning her husband's strict Hasidism and has a baby son. At his bris, she says, "It's like they're sacrificing him."
Her sister-in-law tells her, "Don't watch" and she replies,
As though it was about them or her.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Australia, 1994
A comedy road-movie through the Australian outback.

Trumpet, younger partner of transsexual Bernadette (Terence Stamp), dies in Sydney. At his funeral, a trumpet is on his coffin. To take Bernadette's mind off her loss, drag-queen Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) invites her to perform in Alice Springs. (Priscilla is their bus.) In the outback, they talk:

Mitzi: I never heard Trumpet play
Bernadette: Play? He didn't play, dear. Trumpet didn't have a single musical bone in his body. No, Trumpet had an unusually large foreskin. So large that he could wrap the entire thing around a Monte Carlo biscuit.
This whole scene was cut from the US version of the film.

The Simply Australia website describes the Monte Carlo biscuit (US: cookie) as "a coconut shortbread style of biscuit sandwiched with a raspberry cream filling". A Monte Carlo biscuit today is 6cm x 4.6cm x 2.3cm (2.4" x 1.8" x 0.9").

Monte Carlo Biscuit
This film is remarkable in referring to the foreskin but not circumcision. Circumcision was already declining in Australia when Trumpet would have been born, so the existence of his foreskin is not at issue, only its size. Even so, it would not have to be as large as you might think, because the foreskin is remarkably elastic.
Quinceaños
US, 2006

In contemporary Latino Los Angeles, an Anglo gay man tells his friends about a recent sexual adventure with a young Hispanic man:

"It was great. Eight inches...uncut!"

A rare exception, perhaps because of its Latino context, to the theme that "The foreskin is disgusting."

Resurrection
US, 1999
(Interlight Pictures, Baldwin-Cohen Productions)

A cop, trying to humor his wounded partner, says:
"Hey Andy - Two boys were sharing a hospital room. So, one boy asked the other why he's there for. So the boy says, 'A circumcision.' And the other boy says, 'Oh man, I had that done right after I was born and I couldn't walk for a year.'"
Andy: "That's the worst fucking joke I ever heard, John."
John: "I know, I know."

The joke has an underlying message: "Circumcision isn't that bad."

Riding in Cars with Boys
US, 2001
A couple are expecting a girl, but when the newborn baby is presented to them in the recovery room, he has a penis (shown for two seconds) - already circumcised and healed.

The film makers either

  • think all boy babies are circumcised without the parents being consulted, or
  • weren't able to get hold of an intact baby boy, or
  • don't know the difference.
Other anomalous circumcisions.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
US, 1993
(Dir: Mel Brooks)

Mel Brooks plays a travelling rabbi who enters on a horsedrawn wagon with a sign on the side advertising circumcisions: "10% off".

He pitches the idea to the Merry Men, who all say "OK, sure, I'll try it," until Mel demonstrates the procedure using a miniature gilloutine and a carrot.

Suddenly they all change their minds, making excuses like, "Oh I forgot, I already had one."

In the legendary time of Robin Hood, it would have been true that only Jews circumcise, but not that they offered it to gentiles, or that rabbis did it. It's encouraging that it is presented as something people would turn down - reflecting Brooks' own ambivalence towards it?

Romance and Cigarettes
US, 2006

"A down-and-dirty musical set in the world of working-class New York, tells a story of a husband's journey into infidelity and redemption when he must choose between his seductive mistress and his beleaguered wife." - IMDB

Nick (James Gandolfini) is having an affair with Tula (Kate Winslet), a Welsh woman who "gets around". During sex she keeps mentioning his foreskin, so he asks a friend at work if women like circumcised penises better, and he says yes, because they all look circumcised in porno movies. He asks "Are you circumcised?"

"Hell no, man, that shit hurts!"

Undeterred, Nick gets circumcised. While he's still in the hospital, his mother finds out, and beats him with her purse, saying "We're not even Jewish!"

Later, Tula has wild sex with him, excited because he would do that for her.

A worldly Welshwomen would not be surprised or put off by a foreskin. Porn movies focus on size and otherwise use what they can get. Implied (and false):

  • Foreskins are universally unusual
  • Only Jews circumcise
  • Circumcision makes sex better

The Rugrats Movie
US, 2000

A young (presumably female) baby says to another in the hospital nursery "They cut my cord", looking at her bellybutton. The boy in the next bassinet looks down his diaper and says, "you should see what they cut on me".

- inviting adults to laugh at the innocence of children and an early start to gender rivalry, but not to consider the actual issues.

Scary Movie 4
US, 2006

Leslie Nielsen plays the U.S. President at a time of an alien invasion spoof of "The War of the Worlds." In a parody of how President Bush was informed of the World Trade Center attacks, Nielsen is visiting an elementary school class and listening to a teacher reading about a pet duck. Upon being informed of the alien attacks, Nielsen first seems to care more about the fate of the duck, then panics the children, then suggests they move on to the book he's holding, calling it: "Rumple Foreskin." He is corrected by an aide, who says it's Rumplestiltskin.

Later, Nielsen addresses the UN General Assembly about the alien threat. He begins with a mélange of parts of old off-color jokes (a la "A priest, a Mexican and a Texan are on an airplane. The pilot announces ....") There are two circumcision references in the disordered speech that follows, one about separating the uncircumcised from the circumcised in the group, and another that made less sense.

While the sequences play foreskins and circumcision for uncomfortable laughs, it was not clearly tilted. The speech was such a mess it will require transcription once home copies are available.

Sepet
[Chinese Eye]
Malaysia, 2004

Two Chinese youths, Jason/Ah Loong (Choo Seong Ng) and Keong (Linus Chung), are sitting in a restaurant waiting for Jason's girlfriend, a Malaysian Muslim.

Keong: Chinese boy should not go out with a Malay girl. They'll only be troubles later. It'll only break your parents' heart. You have to change your name, your religion, no more roast pork for you.

Jason: I know

Keong: They'll snip off the tip of your little brother.

(He reaches for Jason's crotch. Jason tries to avoid him)

Though shaky on the details, Keong is in no doubt that circumcision is harmful.

Sex and Breakfast
US, 2008

(Comedy)

Includes a scene of a sex education class including a chart on which a circumcised penis is shown as normal.

To other such absences

Shadowboxer
US, 2005

(Thriller)

Rose (Helen Mirren) and stepson Mikey (Cuba Gooding Jr.) are contract killers. They spare Vickie (Vanessa Ferlito) because she is pregnant and deliver the baby themselves, then call seedy Dr. Don (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who brings along his girlfriend Precious (Mo'Nique). Later, at Dr Don's office:

Dr Don: Do you want me to circumcise him?

Precious (taking the baby): Hell no. They don't want you going anywhere near his damn dick.

This is apparently more a swing at the character than anything contrary to circumcision.

She Hate Me (sic)
US, 2004

(Comedy directed by Spike Lee) Biotech executive John Henry "Jack" Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is fired when he informs on his corrupt bosses. When his former girlfriend offers him cash to impregnate her and her new girlfriend, he is persuaded and soon in the baby-making business at $10,000 a try. Most reviews are unfavourable.

A potential client: Is he circumcised? If not, (looks disgusted) then I won't even get close to him.

Reinforces the tedious theme that intact penises are "dirty".

Short Skin
UK/Italy/Iran, 2014

Comedy

Synopsis
Ever since he was a child, the seventeen-yearold Edoardo has suffered from a malformation of the foreskin that stops him from masturbating and makes him insecure and ill at ease with girls. Shut up in his sexless microcosm, Edoardo reacts with irritation to the pressures of the outside world, which do nothing but exacerbate his insecurity. No one around him seems to be capable of talking about anything but sex: his friend Arturo, obsessed with the idea of losing his virginity; his parents who urge Edoardo to make overtures to Bianca, the girl next door who has arrived from Milan as she does every year to spend the vacation with her grandmother; even his little sister Olivia, frantically in search of a bitch with which to mate her dog. It will not be the pressures of others that will release Edoardo from his shyness but the close encounter with a girl he meets by chance and an unexpected receptiveness toward him on Bianca’s part. Forced against his will to emerge from the shadows in which he has hidden for years, Edoardo will initially try to solve his problem by clumsy stratagems before finding, at last, the courage to face his own fears.

- Venice Film Festival

Shriek if you know what I did last Friday the 13th
US, 2000

(Splatter comedy)

Teacher asks teenage pupils if they knew Frankenstein was circumcised.

More details needed (but the movie is so uniformly panned that it would be inadvisable to watch it all just to find out).

Sixty six
UK, 2006
Comedy/drama about Bernie Reubens (Gregg Sulkin), about to have his Bar Mitzvah. It clashes with the World Cup final and has to be radically scaled down. Friend: Will you have your tonker cut off?
Bernie: What?
Friend: My mum said when you have your bar mitzvah you have your tonker cut off by a rabbi with a cake knife.
Bernie: It's not called a tonker, it's called a cock and I've already had a bit cut off. (Friend's dad looks up in astonishment.)

Gentiles commonly confuse Bar Mitzvah and Brit Milah, but the cake knife and penectomy are added touches. Cake knives are especially blunt. The lines are presumably to illustrate Bernie's knowledge and urbanity, but the scriptwriters' own knowledge of Judaism is shaky: a rabbi tells Bernie there's nothing in "the Old Testament" about hoping your home side loses. ("Old Testament" is a Christian expression; Jews acknowledge no other.)

The South Park Movie: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
US, 1999

In the TV trailer, after the word "Uncut", the cartoon boys can be heard in the background shouting "Eeeewwwww!"

This casual bigotry against intactness is one of the most insidious ways circumcision is promoted.
For South Park, the TV series, see the TV Sitcoms pages, S-Z.

State and Main
US, 2000
A woman is about to make love to a man and asks him if he is Jewish. He replies, "Yes, why do you ask?"
She says, "I love Jewish men."
He asks, "Why?"
She then looks at his crotch excitedly and says, "Ohh, you know why!"

This reinforces the first myth, that only Jews (and all Jews) circumcise. (She might as well have asked, "Are you American?")
For him to know why would assume that all women prefer circumcised penises.

Summer Storm
[Sommersturm]
Germany, 2004
A comedy about a young rower coming to terms with being gay during a training session camped by a lake.

One of the rowers is brought to the camp in agony. His body is hunched up, and when they force his arms and legs apart one lifts the blanket that wraps him and says "His foreskin is caught in his zipper." Then some woman rowers come to complain that a man has been peeking at them, and they identify him as the culprit. He is taken away to see a doctor. Some of the youths joke about serving his foreskin at a barbecue. At the end of the film he confesses to one of the women that he had been "choking the chicken" and she slaps his face.

Having a foreskin is taken for granted. There is only a comical suggestion that it, rather than the zipper, will be sacrificed.

Superman
US, 1978
The baby Superman walks out of the crash-landed rocket from Krypton, circumcised.
(The question arises, coming from a super-civilization, why?)
Superman II
US, 1980
The infant Superman is again shown circumcised. Other anomalous circumcisions.
Supot (Intact)
Philippines, 2002
A short film (10:49, embedded in its entirety here) about a supot young man who breaks free. A little slow and symbolist at first, but with an uplifting ending (from 7:20 on).

Supot (Uncircumcised) from OGi Sugatan on Vimeo.

Things I Never Told You
[Cosas que nunca te dije]
Spain/US, 1996
In two scenes of traffic jams, we can hear the drivers' thoughts. In the first, a man says, "Why was I circumcised, anyway?" In the next, he answers himself, "It's cleaner and healthier, women prefer it."
Threads
Khait Errouh
Morocco, 2003
Producer's synopsis: Hayat, a young American woman, accompanies her dying father, Mehdi, on a trip to his childhood home in Bejjaad - a small Moroccan town teeming with people she may never meet, but whose lives unfold before our eyes: Karim (Mohamed Farhat), a young boy, is plagued with nightmares on the eve of his circumcision. ... As each of these characters undergoes a rite of passage, Mehdi embraces the end of his life.

Karim being circumcised in ''Khait Errouh'' [Threads]
... and well he might have had nightmares.
Three NeedlesSee 3 Needles
Time of the Coment
(Koha e kometes) Germany/Albania, 2008

Historical comedy

Upon learning that Albania is no longer under Ottoman rule, Shestan (Blerim Destani) ... ventures forth with his men to seek out and defend the newly named German king of Albania. ...

The makeshift troop finally reaches King Weid (Thomas Heinze), who has ethnic problems of his own. Faced with a choice between his throne and his foreskin (Albania's considerable Muslim population demands he be circumcised), Weid abdicates."

- Variety September 21, 2009

As someone commented, "I think I'd abdicate, too."

[The comet in question, Halley, came in 1910. The film is set on the eve of WW1, in 1914, so the time of the comet is well over. Perhaps that is part of the comedy.]

Tiyabu Biru
Senegal, 1978
Made in the Soninke language, English title "Circumcision". No other information available.
The To Do List
USA, 2013

Comedy about teenage girls wanting to experiment sexually.

A teenage girl is about to masturbate a youth, who turns out to be intact.

She reports: "It has skin, I don't remember seeing that in any of the health books."

She asks her mother why some boys aren't circumcised and the mother replies: "The better question is, why are boys circumcised?"

She goes on to explain the foreskin and how much extra sensitivity it has, and that it is a shame that we cut them off our sons at birth.

A touch of spice
(Politiki kouzina) Greece, 2003

A drama set in Greece and Turkey.

A Turkish customer and his son enter a spice shop owned by a Greek in Istanbul. The son is dressed in festive garments resembling a king's or sultans's dress. While the two men talk about politics, the boy approaches the merchant's grandson, but his father forbids him from doing so. He explains to the merchant that the son is to be circumcised shortly, but he will allow him to come another day to play with his grandson.

(Later in the movie the two boys meet again as men and we realise that the promised visit - after the circumcision - never took place.)

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
95 mins
UK, 2005
"An unfilmable 18th century literary classic becomes a comic film-about-a-film." Laurence Sterne's 'The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman' is a mock autobiography renowned for its digressions and its asides, These are paralled in this film version by stepping out of the story into its filming.

During the re-creation of a crucial point in Shandy's childhood, when he was circumcised by a plunging sash window, this painful accident is interrupted by Steve Coogan as Shandy hectoring the child actor (Conal Murphy) for his poor performance.

28 days 
The Two Of Us
Le viel homme et l'enfant

France, 1967
Drama

The parents of a little Jewish boy (Alain Cohen) decide to evacuate him at the height of the bombing of their town in 1944. He goes to stay with an elderly couple. Jews are being rounded up and the old man (Michel Simon) is superficially anti-Semitic, so the boy is told to say he is Catholic, and even learns the Lord's Prayer. The drama is about the developing relationship between the boy and the man. He has a couple of near-disclosures, especially when he's told to bathe in the iron bath in the middle of the kitchen. We see his "problem", the determined old lady (Luce Fabiole) who wants to wash him does not.

Tuli
Philippines
, 2005
A lesbian feminist film.

Daisy (Desiree Del Valle) has inherited, from her abusive father, the role of circumcising all the young men in the village, and she bristles against the expectation that she must then marry one of them. “Let’s show all the men here our world doesn’t revolve around their balls,” she tells her friend Botchok (Vanna Garcia). There are several scenes of circumcisions in the first hour.

I rented the movie Tuli from netflix. I expected, from the descriptions I'd read on various websites, that Tuli was an anti- circumcision film, as it is repeatedly described as the story of a young woman bucking against traditional Filipino society and her circumciser-father.

And so it seemed, throughout the entire movie, beginning with the horrible opening scene of children being circumcised; the circumciser (Bembol Roco) portrayed as an evil drunk; then his daughter, Daisy (Desiree del Valle), specifically choosing the one intact young man in town, Nanding (Carlo Aquino), to impregnate her. The movie is filled with depictions of the evils of superstition; from villagers who believe that dwarves and lesbians curse children; to Catholics who whip themselves with instruments of torture on Holy Days. The recurring theme is that all the 'bad' men in town are circumcised, while the one kind man in town is uncut: contrary to what the villagers believe, circumcision does NOT make the man.

At the movie's climax, the village people get together to violently tear Daisy and her female lover, Botchok (Vanna Garcia), from their home. It is Nanding alone who comes to their defense, fighting off the attackers, and when he succeeds, Botchok shouts to the villagers: "YOU are the uncut ones after all!" ("supot", the derogatory term in Tagalog for intact -- as well as homosexual -- carries the connotation of "bad".)

And yet, after all that, just like ALWAYS, the very last scene of the movie, after spending two hours depicting their uniqueness and independence, shows Daisy circumcising Nanding, because he, after all, is a "REAL" man - and, like the idiotic villagers shouted all along, "REAL" men are circumcised.

There are repeated Catholic images and scenes throughout the movie; even the ending credits are adorned with various Christian drawings. The current pope has even again reminded Catholics that they are "a church without circumcision." Why won't his church listen?

Danielle in Pasadena

The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story
UK, 2003

IMDb summary: The first of three parts, we follow Tulse Luper in three distinct episodes: as a child during the first World War, as an explorer in Mormon Utah, and as a writer in Belgium during the rise of fascism. Packed with stylistic flourishes, it's a dense, comic study of 20th century history, revolving around the contents of one man's suitcases.

During Tulse's childhood (5'40" in), he (Richard Pask) and his friends are playing war and explain to their friend David (Joshua Light) that he must be Jewish because he's "lost a piece of his willy."

Circumcision was also a class marker in the UK in the early 20th century.

Uncut
Canada, 1997

A comedy set in Ottawa in 1979, about three gay men named Peter - one, Cort (Matthew Ferguson), is writing a book about male circumcision; another, Koosens (Michael Achtman), is transcribing that book in a typing agency and is obsessed with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to a degree that draws the attention of a police officer; the third, Peter Denham (Damon D'Oliveira), seduces the first two and then betrays them both. "[a] witty, imaginative and frequently subversive reapraisal of cinematic form... this is certainly different and refreshing viewing." - Time Out

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
US, 2011

Comedy about two dopers, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) and their dangerous quest for a Chrismas tree.

A Jewish man who has converted to Christianity is extolling the new-found joys of being a Christian at Christmas:

"Next week I have an appointment to get uncircumcised. That's right, I'm going to get my snozzle!"

Implying only Jews are circumcised, even though the two main - gentile - characters' circumcised penises both appear in the film. Harold's is absurdly stretched when he tries to pull it from a post to which it has frozen, and is probably a stunt-cock.

Harold's penis, frozen to a pillar Harold's penis - stretched
Click on images for larger

Clearly the restoration involved is surgical.

View from the Top
US, 2003

A romantic comedy about becoming a flight attendant.

At a dinner party, a veteran flight attendant, Sally Weston (Candice Bergen) married to a rich Texan, is host to several new flight attendants.

Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow): So what was it like, Mrs Weston, when you started flying?
Sally: Sally, please. Oh, it was wonderful! The exotic cities -
Christine (Christina Applegate): I hear all those Europe men are uncircumcised.
Randy (Joshua Malina, informatively): Uh, not all. (Mr Weston looks pained)

The humour lies in the inappropriateness of the question, topped by the inappropriateness of the answer, with a mildly homophobic dig at Randy's supposed promiscuity (though one circumcised European would be sufficient for him to be correct).

On another level, it is anti-intact: he is reassuring her that she can date a European without having to put up with a foreskin.

Virtual Sexuality
UK, 1999

Romantic comedy with a touch of sci-fi.

Justine Parker (Laura Fraser), 17, wants to lose her virginity. She goes to a virtual reality fair for a date with self-styled superstud Alex Thorne (Kieran O'Brien), but he stands her up and she goes with her friend Chas Lovett (Luke de Lacey). In a machine intended to give her a virtual makeover, she sets the controls for her ideal man (Rupert Penry-Jones) instead. An explosion puts her into his body and she calls herself Jake, but has much to learn about being a man.

Jake and Chas are in a locker-room, where naked men are horsing around:

Jake: Jesus, would you look at Carter's.

Chas: Don't point.

Jake learns the awful truth 1 Jake learns the awful truth 3
Jake learns the awful truth 2

Jake: But he's got no - the inside's showing.

Chas: He's been circumcised.

Jake: Poor bastard!

A scene that would probably have been turned on its head Smile in the US.
Waiting for Guffman
US, 1996

A semi-improvised comedy.

Blaine, Missouri. To celebrate the town's 150th anniversary, an off5-Broadway director is mounting an historical pageant. (Guffman is a Broadway theatre critic who has been invited to the opening night.) Two of the cast - a travel agent who has left town only once and the dentist - and their partners are having dinner together.

Ron Albertson (Fred Willard): How'd you find this place?

Dr. Allan Pearl (Eugene Levy, who played Dr Wasserman in "Off Centre" ): Well, we've been, uh coming here for many years

Sheila Albertson (Catherine O'Hara rather the worse for wear) What's it.. what's it..

Ron: Shhh ...

Sheila: Girl talk. What's it like to be with a circumcised man?

Mrs [first name not given] Pearl (Linda Kash) reacts.

Sheila : I'd ask you more about that but Ron said the whole Jew thing...

Ron whispers in Sheila's ear. Reaction from Dr Pearl.

Sheila: When Ron had his surgery... when Ron had his surgery ...

Ron (interrupting): All right, all right ...

Sheila: ... I said, 'Hey circumcise it while you're at it,' you know... because I had never been with anyone else. Ron's the only man I've been with. [This does not follow. ~75% of the world's women have never been with any but intact men.]

Dr. Pearl: What surgery did he have?

Ron: A minor corrective surgery. (to a waiter) Can we have some coffee at the table please?

Sheila (sarcastically): It's not minor anymore. [?]

Dr. Pearl (noticing Ron's embarrassment): Well maybe we should change the subject.

Ron: I had, uh, what most guys would, um, dream of: I had penis reduction surgery.

Dr. Pearl (startled): I'm sorry?

Ron: Penis reduction surgery. Which there aren't many. You're gonna say, 'I've never heard of that,' because there haven't been that many cases.

(Reaction from Mrs Pearl)

Sheila: I said, 'Ron do something' and he said, 'Why don't you get one of those vagina enlargements?'

The scene continues without further reference to circumcision.

Walk on Water
Israel, 2004
Explores Israeli-German and straight-gay relationships, among other things.

An Israeli intelligence man, Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi), is hunting down an old Nazi. He poses as a tourist guide and befriends the Nazi's grandson, Axel Himmelman (Knut Berger). They are showering after swimming in the Dead Sea.

Eyal: So they didn't circumcise you? I think I never saw one. You know, we used to talk about it in the army. If it looks bigger and if it's better in bed...

Axel: I don't know. It's the only one I ever had.

Eyal: Is everybody like that in Europe?

Axel (as they get dressed): In Germany, hardly nobody's circumcised - except for the Turks. In other countries of Europe...? Let me think... Italians? Definitely not circumcised. Also the English and the French. Definitely not. Actually, only the Muslims are circumcised in Europe. And the Jews, of course. I think it looks better circumcised.

Eyal (thoughtfully): I see you know quite a lot about it.

Circumcision is a plot device to develop the relationship between the men. Axel is giving away that he is gay, but Eyon doesn't notice. Not many gay Germans would think a circumcised penis looks better than their own - perhaps he is flirting.

Waiting in the Wings
USA, 2014

Musical about a would-be Broadway actor whose CV is switched with a stripper's.

In a song "Gays, Jews and Girls Who Need Love" about people who support musicals, is the line:

No-one is more loyal
Than those who use a mohel.

- underlining "Judaism = circumcision"

Wassup Rockers
USA, 2005
Dramatised documentary by Larry Clark about a group of Guatemalan American and Salvadoran American teenagers in South Central Los Angeles who, instead of conforming to the hip hop culture of their gang-infested neighborhood, wear tight pants, listen to punk rock,and ride skateboards.

Jonathan (Jonathan Velasquez) and a young woman have been pulling their clothes off as they go upstairs. When they reach the bedroom, Jonathan takes off his trousers.

(0:50)
She: You're not circumcised.
Jonathan: No, I'm Latino. Why, it looks different?
She: It looks dangerous! (Kisses him passionately. They begin to have sex.)

A welcome change from "Eew!"

What's Cooking?
USA, 2000

Comedy-drama about two days - around Thanksgiving - in the lives of four Los Angeles families, African-American,Vietnamese, Latino and Jewish.

On Thanksgiving morning, Ruth Seelig (Lainie Kazan) is showing Carla (Julianna Margulies), the partner of her daugher Rachel (Kyra Sedgwick), how to stuff the turkey, and complaining about her son, Art, and his wife.

Ruth: You know they haven't spoken in over a year? It's terrible. That's it, Carla. Just make sure it goes all the way in the back.

Carla: Mmm, that's my favorite part.

Ruth: I mean, our only grandson not circumcised, yet. It's a shanda [disgrace, scandal]. And, and, and they spoke to the moyel in Beverly Hills about the bris and everything.

Rachel (who is pregnant by artificial insemination, unknown to her mother): But it's up to his parents!

Ruth: It's tradition!

As usual, circumcision is not treated seriously in its own right, this time merely as a prop to illustrate the generation gap, and the grandson's rights or wishes do not get a look in.

What To Expect When You're Expecting
USA, 2012

Comedy about pregnancy and parenthood. Stars Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison joke nervously pre-release about the decision how much detail to include about circumcision.

(Christopher Hitchens said, "Genital mutilation is no joke.") Keeping the larger-audience rating seems more important than informing parents about the grim reality of circumcising.

The preview is not encouraging and Matthew Morrison seems to agree with his character, Evan:

In their arguments, Ewan's case for cutting is that

  • "How is it even a question?"
  • He's Jewish
  • People will make fun of their son
  • He likes sex just fine
  • "I'll feel shafted if he's not done." [We may hope that this means that if circumcision is unnecessary, he'll feel that he was shafted by being circumcised.]

Jules's case for intactness is

  • There's more sensation [intact]
  • Circumcision is violent and
  • Unnecessary

A passing nurse says "Actually a lot of couples are choosing not to circumcise these days."

A woman listening to their conversation says uncut guys are better and she had a blast in Europe.

In the (happy) event, the baby is a girl, so the question never needs an answer - and the moviemakers are off the hook.

They discuss the issue a few more times – MM tries to trivialize the idea of circ.  While CD is in labor, she mumbles something about “I don’t care about his penis.”  The issue is resolved when, to their surprise, the sonogram was wrong and she delivers a baby  girl.

Cameron Diaz told Jimmy Fallon she thinks it's strange that men want their sons to be circumcised and aren't comfortable with [a child having] a foreskin.

There’s reality TV stars Jules (Cameron Diaz) and Evan (Matthew Morrison), a high-maintenance pair who argue about circumcision purely so the writers can throw in a few dick jokes but without the slightest degree of truth about how parents can disagree about major decisions even before they know the sex of the child.

... There are so few moments or scenes in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” that don’t feel like they were processed by a machine. “What do we need to put in this movie? Nipple pain? Check. Flatulence? Check. Circumcision jokes? Check. Gags about how awful dads are? You bet.”

- HollywoodChicago.com

 

For circumcision critics, it is a slam-dunk in terms of pop-culture attention to this issue. Jules (Cameron Diaz) is an LA celebrity who is determined not to circumcise her son despite the protestations of the baby’s father Evan (Matthew Morrison). When a tabloid magazine prints that Jules won’t be circumcising on its front cover, the couple’s tensions over the issue escalate. The circumcision issue is not merely addressed in passing. It is a major plot point in the film.

- Beyond the Bris, May 19, 2012

When Father was away on Business
[Otac na sluzbenom putu], Yugoslavia, 1985

A drama-comedy directed by Emir Kusturica and set in 1950s Yugoslavia.

Early on the film, the father decides to have his two boys, Mesa (Miki Manojlovic), aged about nine, and Malik (Moreno D'E Bartolli), 12, circumcised. The adults throw a little party in the house. The boys are presented and circumcised by their uncle who is a butcher. Their father tells the butcher to "go easy" with the skin and is told that there is "enough skin left for a good fuck".

Later on, Mesa shares a bathtub with a little girl. He resents being circumcised since a friend of his "can stick a stone in, while he can't". The girl tells him that her father, who is a doctor, performs such operations and that it is better to be cut by a doctor.

The Wicker Man
UK, 1973
Cult suspense/horror. A Calvanistic Scottish police sergeant (Edward Woodward) goes alone to an offshore island where the locals, led by their Lord (Christopher Lee), have abandoned Christianity in favour of pagan fertility rites, and becomes more involved than is good for him.

A scene in the local chemist/photographer's shop opens with a closeup of jars labelled "Foreskins" and "Dimethyl glyoxime" (used to detect nickel, of no apparent significance) and tracks past jars containing "Rat Brains", a weasel, "Snake Oil Embrocation", "Brains" and "Hearts" and ends on a tank of calf embryos. The foreskins appear to be from adults.

Jar of foreskins in ''The Wicker Man''

This is explained by a scene that was cut from the film:

(Lennox leads the way into the shop. Howie's attention is taken by a large bottle marked "foreskins".)

HOWIE: Foreskins? How do you get foreskins?

LENNOX: Circumcision - how else? I pay Ewan a reasonable price for them.

HOWIE: But what for?

LENNOX: If ritually burnt they bring the rain. But, of course, up here there's very little call for them. Now, how can I help you?

A character is credited as "Doctor Ewan". It is most unlikely that he would ever need to cut off as many foreskins as appear in the jar, suggesting he did it without medical need.

Y tu mamá también
[And your mother, too]
Mexico, 2001

Two best friends, 17 years old, spend most of their time horsing around, swearing, smoking dope and having sex with their girlfriends. One, Tenoch (Diego Luna), is the son of a leading politician and a psychotherapist (very well off). The other, Julio (Gael García Bernal), is the son of a secretary (middle to middle/lower class) whose husband ran off many years ago.

In an early scene, the boys are showering together alone at a country club. As Julio dries off, Tenoch comments on his "ugly dick." Julio ignores the comment but Tenoch continues by saying Julio's penis looks like a "deflated balloon." Julio tells him to "blow up my balloon, faggot!" winning the exchange.

Later, during a road-trip with a Spanish relation of Tenoch's, Luisa (Maribel Verdú), they banter about the relative size of their penises.

Tenoch: Plus, Julio has a really ugly cock.
Luisa: Oh really? Why do you say that?
Tenoch: It looks like a deflated balloon. It has a hood on it; it's really gross.
Luisa: Mmm, yummy. Foreskins. I love them!
Tenoch: Well, I think a hood is just gross.
Julio: Ah, you're just jealous 'cause I'm bigger.

As the film goes on, they express the sexual tension between them in class terms. Tenoch calls Julio "white trash" and "a peasant", while Julio calls Tenoch a "spoiled preppie" and the beneficiary of a corrupt politician father. A voice-over mentions that Tenoch uses his foot to lift the toilet seat in Julio's home.

Circumcision is just one clear line in the sand. The message is that boys in upper- and middle-class Mexican families are routinely circumcised, like the Americans they envy, while intactness is a mark of social inferiority in sophisticated Mexico City, where both boys live.

Julio is unfussed about being intact, but Tenoch has a hangup about foreskins - not that they're dirty, but rather that they label social class. His best friend's intactness is a daily reminder that they're from different sides of the tracks.

The connection is made very deliberately. Diego Luna is actually intact, but was made to wear a circumcised stunt penis in the nude scenes.

Year One
US, 2009
Prehistoric/biblical comedy.

"What's with all the genital mutilation?" asks Oh, a sensitive gatherer (as opposed to hunter), upon hearing the circumcision action plan put forth by Hank Azaria's Abraham. Don't worry, the bearded one says. "It's a very sleek look."

Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2009

Many a true word is spoken in jest! This could be the first time "genital mutilation" has been used to describe male circumcision in a mainstream movie. (Actually, Oh didn't ask that until a eunuch in Sodom offered to show Oh his testicles.)

With its exposed corona and sulcus, and dried surface, a circumcised penis is far from "sleek".

The most hilarious character of the whole lot is undoubtedly the wonderful Hank Azaria as Abraham - a man who tries to convince Zed and Oh that circumcision "is going to catch on".

The Sun June 27, 2009

Zed (Jack Black): "Let me get this straight, you're saying you have too much cock?"

Exactly.
Most reviews have panned the movie.

You Don't Mess with the Zohan
US, 2008
Comedy. Mossad agent Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) fakes his own death so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist who gives his elderly female customers "special services" in the back room. But he is eventually recognized and risks losing his newfound life and career.

Zohan has been staying with Gail (Lainie Kazan) and her son Michael (Nick Swardson) for several weeks, and had sex with Gail several times. He reveals to them that he's an Israeli counter-terrorist:

Michael: Wow. You're an Israeli counter-terrorist?

Gail: I knew it!

Michael: What?

Gail: Well, the Israeli part... 'cause he's circumcised.

In NYC? She has to be joking.

Your Highness
US, 2011
Comedy about a mediaeval quest.

Hollywood Confronts the Last Taboo
Why are so many actors dropping their pants?

A film’s success rises or falls on the smallest of details. And so it was that the director of this month’s medieval stoner comedy Your Highness found himself in a boardroom with the suits at Universal Studios, discussing every last facet of his minotaur[, Brian Steele]’s manhood. How to light the half-man/half-bull’s prosthetic appendage? How large should the dimensions be? And what would the anatomy suggest about the beast’s religious leanings? [As though only Jews circumcise.] “We took the leap, culturally, and we circumcised him,” the director, David Gordon Green, explains.

Or rather, they did the Amurrican thang and they circumcised him.

Documentary
Abandon the Knife
Kenya, 2011

In Pokot, a remote village in the hills of Northern Kenya, two teenage girls start a revolution by refusing to be the victims of female genital mutilation.

The film tells the story of how Nancy and Gertrude stood up to their parents and their traditions and emerged as leaders and role models for future generations of girls in their village and their wider community.

Africa Ama
Italy, 1971
Sensationalistic documentary shows circumcisions of crying male and female children (with broken glass or a razor blade) clearly, and an infibulation. Female circumcision is described as severe mutilation, male circumcision as just a hygienic measure.
Africa Rising...
Kenya, 2009

VOA News
November 18, 2009

African Activism Against Female Circumcision Is Focus of New Film

A new film focuses on the fight by African activists

...

“I was forcefully cut when I was 14 years,” says Kenyan anti-FGM activist Agnes Pareyio. “I tried to resist; everybody was calling me a coward. There was a lot of peer pressure on me that forced me to prove to them that I was not a coward. But I hated it. So, I grew up hating it and made sure that not my daughter, not anybody who can listen to me, will undergo FGM.”

The village-by-village effort of education and persuasion that Pareyio and others like her in Somalia, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mali have taken on is the subject of "Africa Rising: The Grassroots Movement to End Female Genital Mutilation," made by Paula Heredia for Equality Now, a group that works to promote human rights for women.

The film opens with 14-year-old Mary Solio remembering the day she was cut. "My father decided to marry me off. I told him no, because I wanted to continue with my education,“ Solio says. “They beat me. They removed all my clothes and they beat me nakedly. I ran, but they got me on the way. I cry, but nobody was there in the forest. I cried but I don't have anybody to turn to. They beat me the same day and they took me to the husband's home."

At least 100 million African women and girls have undergone FGM, which involves the removal of all or part of the female genitalia. Sometimes the remaining flesh is stitched closed, a practice called infibulation, leaving only a tiny opening for urination and menstruation, and making intercourse and childbirth painful and hazardous. FGM can cause immediate hemorrhaging and death or a lifetime of pain, disability and severe emotional problems, doctors say.

Activists fight FGM by pointing out it is not practiced in most Islamic countries, and is not mentioned in the Koran. In Somalia, where most girls are cut by the age of eight, the film shows anti-FGM activist Hawa Aden Mohamed visiting a classroom. She tells the schoolgirls that God created female organs for a purpose, and so removing them cannot be right. "People are just trying to change His creation," she says.

... She described how she was considered crazy when she began speaking out against FGM seven years ago. Her husband left her after others said she was trying to spoil their culture, and she raised her four children alone.

“In the beginning, it was tough,” Pareyio said. “My life was in danger, because I was trying to break the silence about a culture that was deeply rooted among the people. People believed in it and had never looked at it or even known the dangers, or wanted to talk about it. So, it was like I was crazy, because I was talking about the private part of a woman, which was a taboo in Africa. Nobody can even mention the part that I used to mention when teaching them. But I insisted, because I knew having seen some communities who don’t perform it, I knew that this was just another way of oppressing our women.”

Now the subject is no longer taboo. “I’m happy now because at least everybody is talking about it openly, compared to those days,” she says. “These days I go to the field, and say ‘Well, I’ve called you here because I want to talk about FGM.’ So, we are moving towards stopping it.” Pareyio also invokes her Maasai culture in explaining why she does not let herself become discouraged by the decades of struggle that she sees ahead. “When you go to war, always be faithful [that you will succeed],” she says. “I have faith in me that one day women in the Maasai community will be free from the cut."

http://www.africarisingthefilm.com

Circoncision, un film de Nurith Aviv
France, 2000
(52 min)

From a review:
"Sensitively done interviews, in English and French with subtitles, with a variety of people from various cultural backgrounds, circumcising and non-circumcising, and especially mixed couples, discussing their feelings about circumcision and facing the decision whether to circumcise.

"One secular Algerian man describes how, under colonial French rule, to be circumcised was a proud mark that one was not French. In Paris, his family threatened to disown him if he didn't have his sons, 6-8 years old, circumcised. His French wife was opposed. They ultimately didn't, and he was ostracized from his family of origin. The film honored the depth of people's emotions and conflicts, while leaving no doubt that circumcision was a violent and sexually and emotionally disruptive thing."

- Billy Ray Boyd

"sober and penetrating documentary"

- Ha'aretz (Israel)

From the film's own website:

This film doesn't explore the religious dimensions of circumcision; the men and women expressing their views here are not religious. However, for them circumcision remains a major issue. Their questions focus upon this mar[k]ing of the body, but also upon lineage, cultural heritage and its transmission. These are particularly sensitive issues for mixed couples, for whom the decision of whether to circumcise or not can give rise to powerful emotions, sometimes leading to conflict.
Circumcise Me?
UK, 2006

[Not the 2009 US comedy, Circumcise Me!]
BBC Documentary by Christopher Sykes. IMDb summary: Is it better or not for men to be circumcised?

Circumcised
Sudan, 1999

Sudan’s unsung film hero

By BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI

HE MIGHT HAVE LOST HIS sight, but Gadalla Gubara is determined not to abandon the skills of film-making that he has mastered over 60 years in his career. ...

In the film Circumcised (Sudan, 1999, 20 min), Gubara makes a strong statement against the practices of circumcision as performed in Africa, particularly in Sudan.

The East African

Circumcision
Israel, 2008
Circumcision \ a film by Ari Libsker, 21 minute documentary in Hebrew and English, with subtitles..
The film itself.

Interviews with recent immigrants who regret being circumcised for conformity (2'35"):

"It was very, very stupid." parents who did not circumcise, though their son later wanted it (4'38"): "A child has to be very hard on himself to hurt himself in a place where you learn how to love." a man who sued his parents for circumcising him (13'22"), and Israeli parents struggling with conformity and custom (16'26"): "In order for him to be called a Jew, he has to suffer these hellish experiences."
Couper Court
Cut Short
Canada, 2007
Official summary: Infant circumcision is a delicate subject. For some, it stands as a religious law, impossible to circumvent; for others, it amounts to a serious lapse from children's right to physical integrity. This documentary gives an opportunity to men and to women to express freely their concern with this question.
52 minutes
Producer: Evelyne Guay
Production Productions VF Inc.
Cut
USA, 2007
A documentary by Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon which examines male circumcision from a religious, scientific and ethical perspective. "Using cutting-edge research, in addition to interview footage of rabbis, philosophers, and scientists, Cut challenges the viewer to confront their biases by asking difficult questions about this long-standing practice." Primarily about Brit Milah, the Religious News Service says the film "respectfully questions the ritual".

After its theatrical premiere in Chicago on September 9, 2007, the director answered questions from the audience.

An independent review:
I approached the film with a complex set of preconceptions and, to the filmmaker's great credit, after it was over my certainties were utterly shaken.

It would be entirely too easy to make a joke about the subject of Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon’s thoughtful new documentary, “Cut:Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision.” After all, Jewish comedians have been doing that for decades. And at the beginning of his film, one expects from its tone that Ungar-Sargon may be planning to do the same.

But “Cut” is a deadly serious and admirably balanced look at the medical, sociological, ethical and religious aspects of male circumcision. The filmmaker interviews a profusion of doctors, activists and rabbis, returning periodically to a non-observant Jewish couple who are preparing for the brit milah of their second son, which we see towards the end of the film.

Ungar-Sargon was himself raised as an Orthodox Jew, and describes his uneasy investigation of this issue as one more step in his “lifelong struggle with Jewish tradition.” As his father notes, he was circumcised by the same mohel who had performed the rite on the filmmaker’s grandfather and father, a detail that underlines the significance of circumcision as a practice that unites Jewish men across generations.

Despite his own misgivings about circumcision, Ungar-Sargon is admirably even-handed in his choice of witnesses and the use of their statements. It would be very easy to caricature some of the odder “intactivist” activists , and one cannot help but bristle a little at the non-Jewish anti-circumcision organizer who says, “I don’t prescribe for Jews at all,” with a certain air of disdain, or the non-observant Jewish anthropologist who takes obvious delight in pointing out the preponderance of Jewish physicians doing research to support the purported medical benefits of the procedure.

  • [It would be even easier to caricature quite mainstream circumcision activists.
  • He would bristle even more at Intactivists who do prescribe for Jews - damned if we do and damned if we don't, it seems.

    Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon: Would you argue that Jews should discontinue the practice of circumcision?
    Harry Meislahn (NOCIRC Illinois): No, I don't - I don't prescribe for Jews at all. This is an absolute loser, I'm not Jewish. One of the other things about it is that I would maintain that a Jewish baby feels pain just as a non-Jewish baby feels pain, and there are Jewish men, just like non-Jewish men, who are real angry that this was done to them so at that point I withdraw from this field because it generates lots of heat, very little light, and I understand a lot of people have used arguments against circumcision - hundreds of years ago - to convert Jews from Judaism, and Jews know that.

    Disdain?
  • Prof. Leonard Glick:
    As I studied the history of American circumcision, the names that came up repeatedly with most prominence - Wolbarst, Ravich, [Fink], Weiss, Schoen (still active today) - the names - with the single exception of Thomas Wiswell (who's the main proponent for [circumcision to prevent] Urinary Tract Infections) - but with that single exception, really in recent times, I think it's accurate and reasonable and fair to say that the names of Jewish physicians are inordinately prominent.

    Were these men being insincere in some sense? Did they have "ulterior motives"? I really don't think so. I think in their own conscious minds, what they were doing was recommending a Jewish practice that had turned out to be a very good medical practice, one that everyone should adopt.

    Were they at all influenced by the fact that they were Jewish? I think it's pretty hard to conclude that they probably were not. I would say that, whether consciously or unconsciously, they would have been pleased or satisfied to know that a Jewish practice that had been vilified for centuries was now being accepted by their fellow physicians - non-Jewish physicians - as something worth doing. (Prof. Glick spells this out in more detail on page 183ff of his book.)

    Delight?]

Yet it is hard not to be moved when both a midwife and anti-circumcision speaker and the woman rabbi who runs the Reform movement’s Berit Milah program speaking passionately about the responsibility to protect our children. The question remains, of course, whether that is best done by circumcising the male infants or eschewing that practice.

In a sense, the entire film is leading up to the final scene between the director and his father, who has been a highly articulate but intransigent defender of Orthodox ritual. Over the course of making the film, Ungar-Sargon returns to his father in his home study repeatedly, but it is only in their final chat that the older man admits that even he is prepared to acknowledge that the question is a fraught one and that he can live with his son’s answer (or lack thereof).

The questions surrounding male circumcision do not admit of any easy answers but, to his credit, Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon has resisted the easy laugh and the pat response to convey something of the thorniness of the issue. He has confronted in a specifically and intensely Jewish way, and that is all you could possibly ask of a filmmaker under these circumstances.

Cut is a sound piece of documentary filmmaking on a difficult issue.

George Robinson in Cine-Journal Blogspot

DVDs of "Cut" are available from the film's website.

Cutting Silence
South Africa, 2008
A 29-minute dramatised documentary about Somalian FGC.

Synopsis: The film tells the story of a small contemporary North African family having to deal with the traditional practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). The main focus of the film falls on a young mute woman, Haadiya, who has lived with the effects of FGM all her life. Now that the time has come for her own daughter, Karida, to be circumcised, lost memories about her own experience start to return and fill her mind with doubt. However, a culture that demands the infabulation for social acceptance makes her situation more complex. When Tawvah, bearing the scars of her own infabulation, shows up to do the circumcision on Karida, Haadiya is forced to make a quick and drastic decision. The film investigates the cultural reasons for the continuation of this practice in North African societies. During this short period, actual experiences and scientific facts are condensed into the lives of the five fictional characters, predominantly on the four female characters, who are forced to evaluate their roles as women bound by tradition as well as the life-long damage this cultural practice inflicts on their minds and bodies. The film thus examines through the genre of docudrama the cultural and personal reasons why such a practice still exists in Africa today.
Trailer

The Day I Will Never Forget
UK (TV), 2002
A low-key documentary with little commmentary.
From a review: Set in the Somali community of Nairobi, Kenya, where female genital mutilation is still a common practice, The Day I Will Never Forget takes a many-faceted look at the complex social and cultural forces that continue to thwart effective reform. A Western-trained nurse confronts a new husband with his wife's need for corrective surgery, only to see him put his fear of being shamed by his friends before his wife's well-being. A men's fraternity leader, wearing traditional dress, claims that the clitoris is no different from the foreskin and therefore must be removed. Middle-class mothers sit around a living room rationalizing their own suffering and justifying why they have passed the practice on to their daughters. But filmmaker Kim Longinotto ... provides a larger context for the practice with a look into Somalian marriage customs... Ultimately hope is found in a group of young girls who petition the court for a restraining order against their parents.

- Jeannine Lanourette
San Francisco Film Festival

Justifications offered for FGM are tradition, to keep girls from sleeping around, and cleanliness. The elder argues that the clitoris is the male organ in the female, as the foreskin is the female organ in the male, and claims God has ordered both to be removed. Opposition to (female) circumcision is largely Christian-based, and religious justification for it vaguely Muslim (the man who puts this forward is sure there is something in the Qu'ran about it.) The most harrowing scene is of a young girl, who has just watched her elder sister being mutilated, being suddenly and unexpectedly held down and subjected to the same process.
The 8th Day
US (TV), 2001
A video documentary about two Jewish couples wrestling with the decision whether to circumcise their sons. Karen Markuze made the video as her master's thesis in broadcast journalism.
Facing Circumcision: Eight Physicians Tell Their Stories
US (TV), 1998 (20 mins)
Seven family practice physicians and one emergency room physician in Santa Fe, NM, struggle with their consciences as they examine the ethical and human rights issues of infant circumcision. Three of them tell why they stopped circumcising, the others why they continue to circumcise or to advocate circumcision and discuss what might lead them to change their minds.

Available through NOHARMM:

Female Circumcision in Indonesia: The Weight of Tradition
France, 2012
(26 mins)
in French

Official Summary (includes the complete film when logged in):

Directors: Alexandra Deniau & Eric Beurot

In Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, female circumcision remains a firmly rooted tradition. Starting very young, little girls must undergo genital mutilation. In some Indonesian provinces, the vast majority of young girls are circumcised.

Today, many ulema [Muslim community] members fervently argue in favor of the necessity of female circumcision. Their influence is strong, and they are forcing the government to back down on its plans to ban female genital cutting.

We followed Arista, a three year-old little girl who must go through the procedure according to her family’s wishes. Her mother drives her to Bandung in Southeast Jakarta where a circumcision ceremony is orchestrated by an Islamic group.

Who is responsible for perpetuating this religious tradition? Why is the Indonesian government allowing medical staff to continue to perform female circumcision? And who will help the country break free of this ancestral tradition?

Hidden In Plain Sight: Trauma in America
US, in production

"The effects and costs of traumatic stress, America's largest health care crisis"

To include a section on circumcision. Produced by Henry Astor.

It's a Boy!
UK (TV), 1995
This documentary proved to be more anti-circumcision than its makers ever intended: the bris they were filming went wrong. The mohel told them to stop the camera but they carried on. The baby had to go to hospital, where he developed an infection, went into intensive care and needed antibiotics, oxygen and drips. Excerpts from this circumcision were used in a mainly pro-circ US current affairs item, with the outcome not mentioned. The makers of "It's a Boy!" were, predictibly, denounced as anti-Semitic and the filming was blamed for the mishap, yet brisot are commonly videotaped by relatives, as in "The Nanny", and the producer, Victor Schoenfeld, is the Jewish father of a circumcised son. He also presents details of two babies who died as a result of their circumcisions and an interview with the mother of a third who almost bled to death. It reveals cases of permanent genital disfigurement, claiming that, at a conservative estimate one in 50 circumcisions leads to serious complications. The film also shows Muslim circumcisions.

It's a Boy! is now available on DVD. Trailer at the website.

Keep the River on your Right: a modern cannibal tale
US, 2000
Includes documentary footage (virtually irrelevant to the subject, an elderly anthropologist, Tobias Schneebaum, who wrote an important book of the same title) of Muslim ritual circumcision of terrified Malaysian boys.
Includes close-ups, not for the squeamish.
Me and the Jewish Thing
Mig og Jøderiet Denmark, 2009
Documentary about, and by, Ulrik Gutkin

Through conversations with his wife, Signe, we learn that Ulrik, who is Jewish, and Signe, who is Christian, do not share the same opinion about the need for circumcision. Ulrik, a 4th generation Danish Jew, feels strongly that their son should be circumcised. Signe, however, sees circumcision as a "medieval" act of mutilation and cruelty.

The film covers four years of the couple's life, spanning from the last weeks of Signe's pregnancy, through the first few years of their son Felix's life. Interwoven with Ulrik and Signe's ongoing debate, we learn about Ulrik's Jewish history, his attachment to his religion and culture. In addition to questioning the physical purpose of circumcision, Signe wonders why it's important to Ulrik to become more Jewish, [and] make a film about this Jewish topic, when Judaism wasn't a big part of Ulrik's life prior to having kids.

Ulrik struggles to articulate why he feels strongly in favor of circumcising their son. As it becomes clear to him that their son won't be circumcised, he looks for other ways to impart Judaism on Felix, though he and Signe again feel differently about those efforts.

Review at the IFF Network Blog October 26, 2010</P>

Nurses of St. Vincent's: Saying NO to Circumcision
US (TV), 19
In 1992, more than 20 nurses of St Vincent Hospital, Santa Fe, NM, refused to perform any more circumcisions, and in 1995, two of them, Mary Conant and Betty Katz Sperlich, founded Nurses for the Rights of the Child. This is their story.
Partly Private
Canada, 2009
Produced by Danae Elon - "a personal examination of the ritual of male circumcision. In it, Elon travels the world with her husband after the birth of their son."

Program Notes
No decision made about a newborn son is as consequential and irreversible as one made by parents around the world, often without a second thought: What to do about that pesky foreskin? [Since Muslims, Filipinos, South Koreans and tribal people cut years later, and neonatal circumcision is residual in the Commonwealth, in fact only in the US (and Israel) do parents have to give it even a first thought.] To filmmaker Danae Elon, who grew up in Israel but is a secular Jew, the entire ritual of circumcision is ridiculous. But her partner, Phillip, comes from a traditional French/Algerian Jewish family and believes wholeheartedly in the tradition of the bris. So what else does a documentary filmmaker do but explore the issue on the big screen?

Intimately opening her own personal experience to the world, Elon (Another Road Home, TFF '04,) takes a witty approach to a complicated and serious subject, turning Partly Private into a fun and entertaining movie that is as much about family as the subject of circumcision. Traveling around the world during her pregnancy, she examines how people from other cultures in other countries feel about what she considers an absurd and outdated ritual, and yet Elon never allows the film to become overly preachy for one side of the debate or the other. Partly Private is an ironic and clever look at a topic to which most new parents may never give enough thought.
--Aaron Dobbs

- Tribeca Film Festival programme

Interview with Danae Elon

It all began when Philip, my partner told me about a story his father had told him: “In Algeria”, he said, “there is a tradition of putting the foreskin in the couscous dish after the ceremony”. “In the couscous dish?????”

We never really spoke about what we would we do if we had a boy… It was only when I became pregnant with my first child that I realized that other people’s dilemmas were now my own. My husband humbly came to me one day and said: Danae, we will do it…, right? I realized that my response was both completely simplistic: “No! Are you insane?”, and yet contained a bizarre atavistic reaction that would inevitably bring me to agree with him, one that was laced with ancient historical baggage. I decided that this would make the perfect dramatic setting for a documentary on circumcision. I wanted the film to be most of all witty and humorous and not a dogmatic report on the issue. I realized that it was a way to expose something about our nature as human beings rather than make a statement about whether circumcision is right or wrong.

Making the film and mostly writing and editing it held within it immense potholes, I knew I was going to be walking a very thin line of between taste and balance. It was my intention to portray everyone taking sides on this issue as equally crazy. Using my personal story was a mechanism of touching upon intimate truths that regard us all, a prism through which to look at relationships and sacrifices that go into making a family.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?

I knew that taking sides in this story would be its downfall. It is a highly controversial subject that easily becomes banal and redundant. Avoiding this redundancy was the most difficult part of making the film. It was also a challenge to find humor within my search and not include graphic materials.

- Indiemedia, April 15, 2009

We look forward to Ms Elon's witty and humorous documentary about Female Genital Cutting, portraying everyone taking sides on this issue as equally crazy, finding humour and not including graphic materials.

N Y Blueprint
April 19, 2009

Circumcision Film Makes The Cut

by: Alan Zeitlin

Judaism is a religion that welcomes the act of questioning. But few question the act of circumcision, which is commanded to Abraham by God, according to the Bible.

In her documentary “Partly Private,” which premieres at the Tribecca Film Festival, Danae Elon wonders whether or not she should circumcise her son. She is leaning against it and her father is against anything religious. Yet her husband, Philip, wants to keep the tradition of his father and his grandfather, who was a rabbi. Should she stick to her guns or acquiesce to her husband’s wishes out of a love for her spouse?

In her quest to learn more about circumcision, Elon travels to Italy, Israel, Turkey and England, but gets arrested on the Upper West Side of her native Manhattan. Elon visits a sex-toy-shop, a church, a spot where Abraham may have circumcised himself and a location where Jesus’ foreskin might have been stored.

The film is fascinating, humorous and disturbing. You’ll be mystified as you see the “Circumcision Palace,” in Turkey where boys between the ages of six and nine dress in elaborate outfits, wave to clowns and go on a ride, only to be to shot up with Novocain and then circumcised. One boy cries that he doesn’t want to go through with it.

In London, Elon meets a mohel, or one who performs the circumcisions. He proudly shows her a glass jar of foreskins he’s kept. In Calcutta, a man manages to keep a straight face while insisting that they had Jesus’ foreskin but it was stolen in the 1980’s. In Washington D.C., there are even men with an odd contraption they claim helps them restore their foreskins. Early on the film, a young man shows off his song and illustrated book about his angst over being circumcised.

“What is wrong with me?” This is the question Elon wonders aloud, trying to figure out why she questions the tradition of circumcision, where the majority of Americans do it without thinking so much about it. It doesn’t help when Dr. Howard Shaw shows how a medical circumcision is done in the hospital. Using a dummy, he show how the baby is strapped in and a metal device is sued to expose the foreskin on the metal, making it easier to cut and allowing less blood. This seems much worse than the ritual circumcision, which takes less time. Shaw is a funny character, but the scene where he shows how a baby is strapped down will make men want to turn away and might actually make a mother think twice about having a circumcision in the hospital. It surely doesn’t make Elon feel any better. [They might think more than twice if they could see a real circumcision close up - surgical or ritual.]

Some interesting tidbits are that England’s health care system stopped covering circumcision, whereas it became prevalent in the United States after World War II because it was though to be more hygienic. The film gets a bit sophomoric, when Elon asks young New York City women if they prefer their men to be circumcised or uncircumcised. She’s told that based on the HBO show “Sex and the City,” it’s better for the men they date to be circumcised. ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

Elon goes to places you wouldn’t expect to go and manages not to trivialize the ordeal. Her husband Philip is a likeable character and it’s clear that circumcision is important to him, even though he isn’t religious himself. And Elon’s father, noted Israeli writer Amos Elon, tells her to ignore a psychoanalyst’s claim that symbolic castration and is motivated by a husband’s jealousy of the newborn. [Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!]

...

The film is in English with subtitled dialogue in Hebrew and Arabic 1 hr. 24 minutes

This all serves to underline Leonard Glick's point that "whenever circumcision is discussed ... the defining motif is uneasiness."

Prince for a Day
US (TV), 2000
In 1998, after speaking at a congress for Indonesian midwives, Royal Philips went on a cruise in the Banda sea. At the island of Sumbawa, she witnessed the circumcision of 41 terrified boys, in circumstances very similar to the Schneebaum documentary above. Her documentary makes one small but very telling connection with routine infant circumcision.
Not for the squeamish.
The Quest for the Missing Piece
Israel, 2007
"A gay look at the practice of circumcision" Dir: Oded Lotan. 52 mins Described by Brandon Jodell as "endearing".

The Quest for the Missing Piece could also be titled “the unkindest cut of all.” It’s a funny, disconcerting romp through the debate over circumcision. Using a gentle touch in a sensitive area, filmmaker Oded Lotan takes us on a bris tour: a Jewish baby, a Moslem seven-year-old, and an adult Russian-Israeli soldier. Circumcision may be a Biblical mitzvah, but many commandments are routinely ignored by most Jews. Why not this one? Lotan introduces us to his gay, goy lover (oy); to his mother, who endorses circumcision, but not gay love (oy yoy); and to a Tel Aviv anti-circumcision group dedicated to having “intact” Jewish children (oy yoy yoy!). Does secular circumcision survive because Jews are afraid their children will no longer “look like” them or because this sign carved in flesh is really what binds the tribe?

—Alan Snitow

See Trailer
Religulous
US, 2008
Comedy/documentary about religion. Bill Maher: And then there is circumcision, I mean we're used to it now, but don't you think when they thought this up there wasn't some guy saying, "Now let me get this straight; you want to do what?"

Indeed, if circumcision were not prevalent, we would all regard it as too outlandish to contemplate for ourselves or anyone we know. In the beginning, as now, it was probably always done by the powerful to the powerless. Only recently, threatened by HIV (and ostracism), have any significant numbers of healthy adult men volunteered to be circumcised.

Bill Maher has since defended circumcision on his talk show, Politically Incorrect.

They Cut Babies, Don't They?
US (TV), 1999 (30 mins)
Subtitled "one man's struggle against circumcision". Angered by his own circumcision, James Loewen documents anti-circumcision protests, creates a series of satirical photographs about doctors who circumcise, lobbied politicians, and chalks slogans on busy sidewalks. He is also restoring his foreskin.

Available from NOHARMM:

The Truth About Gay Sex
UK (TV), 2002
This UK documentary, aimed at a heterosexual audience, mainly takes intactness for granted, but the only direct reference to the foreskin is to say it can be retracted for oral sex, and
  • a discussion of anal sex uses a (US-made?) diagram of "The Male Reproductive System" on which the penis is circumcised
  • a discussion of how gross penises may appear shows only intact penises
  • it covers such byways as rimming (oral-anal sex) and fisting, but not the only thing that gay men can do that a heterosexual couple can not, docking.
Whose Body, Whose Rights
US (TV), 1995
Uses footage of a circumcision and interviews with restoring men and others hurt by circumcision to build a powerful case.

Available from NOHARMM:

The stage
The Archarnians
Greece, 425 BCE
Comedy by Aristophanes, contrasting the pleasures of peace with the sorrows of war.

A group of run-down, poorly equipped Thracian mercenaries called Odomantians are being offered to the Athenians to aid the defense against Sparta.

Dikaiopolis (an old farmer, the main character): Odomantian balls! And while we're in the area (examines their genitals) What on earth has happened here? Tell me, who cut the leaf off your fig?

Theorus: They are excellent light infantry, and for two drachmas a day [a generous sum] they will overrun the whole of Boeotia for you.

Dikaiopolis: Two drachmas for that lot, with not a whole prick between them!

- translated by Alan H. Sommerstein, Penguin Classics, 1973

Another translation:

"Who docked the Odomantian cock?
... They don't even come with foreskins!"

- William Arrowsmith, ed., "Aristophanes: Four Comedies"
Translated by Douglass Parker
University of Michigan Press, 1969

This seems to be a clear expression of the belief that circumcision damages masculinity.

The Clouds
Greece, 423 BCE
Comedy by Aristophanes, mocking Socrates as being in "cloud-cuckoo land".

Chorus: My Comedy's a modest girl: she doesn't play the fool
  By bringing on a great thick floppy red-tipped leather tool
  To give the kids a laugh....

- translated by Alan H. Sommerstein, Penguin Classics, 1973

The Greeks considered the glans to be obscene. A red-tipped phallus would have belonged to a circumcised Egyptian or Phoenecian (leather intact phalluses were part of the costume in all comedies, including The Clouds).

Circumcise Me
USA, 2008

One-man show, opened off-Broadway, November 1, 2009, previewed by lisa on Jewlicious

The first time Christopher Campbell converted to Judaism, he changed his name to Yisrael and got circumcised. He became a Reform Jew.

The second time he converted to Judaism, he became a Conservative Jew. He got circumcised again.

The next and final time he converted to Judaism, he became an Orthodox Jew. And yes, he got circumcised again.

At that point, says Yisrael, “Circumcision is not a religious covenant. It’s a fetish.” ...

The Covenant,
or Bagels and Butchery

USA, 2014

One of ten playlets in the sequence, "Pew-ish: Artists Responding to the New Jewish Identity," given a staged reading on June 26th 2014 at the Judson Memorial Church, New York.

 

The Jewish Daily Forward
July 1, 2014

Israel and Circumcision Top List of Concerns in New 'Pewish' Plays

by Gordon Haber

The Pew Survey of American Jewry came as a shock to the chattering classes ... anybody with eyes could see that interest in the religion has dwindled ... But the decline was much steeper than anybody expected. ... David Shmidt Chapman, an energetic young theater director, ... was inspired to commission short plays from ten Jewish playwrights who usually don’t write about religious issues. ...

A second standout was “The Covenant,” or “Bagels and Butchery,” by Ken Weitzman. In this playlet, new parents debate whether they should go through with their son’s bris when the mohel who shows up is crosseyed. It’s an amusing beginning to a serious subject, especially when the wife isn’t Jewish: the word “mutilation” comes up a lot.

Jake Goodman is charming as David, an ambivalent secular Jew tortured by his indecision about the excision, and Megan Ketch is appealing as the sharp-tongued but loving wife and mother. And, as a Jewish father, I can attest to how well the play captures the horror of parents facing the insanity of circumcision. ...

Cut/Uncut
USA, 2008

Cut/Uncut: A Play Against Circumcision, first performed in Purchase, NY December 4, 5, 6, 2008.

Official summary:
Drama Studies senior James Dier directs his senior project, his original play entitled Cut/Uncut: A Play Against Circumcision. In Cut/Uncut, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of corn flakes, gives a speech about sexuality from his 19th century ideals as a story unfolds behind him of a young couple about to have their first child, a boy.

A video of the play is available for download (285MB) from www.megaupload.com/?d=FHN1K9PS

Foreskin's Lament
New Zealand, 1981
The first act is set in a rugby changing room. In a practice heard but not seen, an ambitious but unsuccessful cop known as Clean covertly kicks his captain, Ken, in the head (in order to take over the position), and the issues around this - fair play vs winning - are discussed (largely in the nude, since they're headed for the showers), mainly by Tupper the win-at-all-costs coach, and Foreskin (real name Seymour), a non-conformist universty student.

In a rugby match between the two acts, Clean kicks Ken again, and during the second act (set at the after-match party) Ken dies in hospital. Foreskin's lament, for Ken but also for rugby, which he is giving up, and for human values, closes the play.

There is only a passing reference to circumcision, and that ambivalent:

Moira (Foreskin's girlfriend): Why the funny names ... Foreskin? I never noticed it.
Foreskin: Are they that unusual ... Honey?
Moira: All right.
Foreskin: Progress has a lot of chops to answer for - trees, animals, sensibilities of all kinds, what's a piece of skin?
Moira: Can cover a lot of sensibilities.
Foreskin: Ha ha.
Moira: Well?
Foreskin: Pretersensual pain - the chop I missed and have always been bound for.
(The playwright Greg McGee says he based the name on someone nicknamed "Foreskin" because his real name was Fawcett.)
Since 1981 the play has been revived several times, and the title is so familiar that at least six newspaper articles about circumcision have used it as a title, and variants have been used on unrelated topics, such as "Forwards' Lament" about Rugby and "Foreshores Lament" about seashore ownership. From this it may be concluded that the concept "foreskin" has no negative connotations in New Zealand.
''Foreskin's Lament'' playscript cover

A radically revised version was first broadcast on New Zealand TV on October 19, 2003. Renamed "Skin and Bone", the lament is replaced by an upbeat hymn of praise to rugby, Seymour's nickname is reduced to "Skin" and he explains it to Moira as being because he used to be skinny, "all skin and bone". This could be because the decline in circumcision in New Zealand means a foreskin is no longer the distinguishing feature among men of rugby-playing age that it was in 1981.

Foreskin's Lament is also the title of a 2007 book.

The Habit of Art
UK, 2009
Play by Alan Bennett about a rehearsal/workshop of a play about a (fictitious) reunion at Oxford in 1973 between W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten. Before Britten arrives, Auden has an appointment with a rent boy, Stuart.

[Approximate dialogue]

Auden: Tell me about your other customers. Are many of them uncircumcised? ... I was circumcised at the age of seven, not a good [time].

Stuart: Well, I meet more uncircumcised at the bus station than [in the Oxford colleges]

Stuart accurately describes the class difference in circumcision in England in 1973. Circumcision itself is not an issue (except for Auden - Stuart is more interested in Auden's facial wrinkles). The dialogue illustrates Auden's lack of inhibition about sexual matters (compared to Britten), and is a springboard for the outer-play cast to discuss how much the inner play should expose Auden's weaknesses.

Incident at Vichy
US, 1964
Play by Arthur Miller set in the German-occupied French town of Vichy in October 1942.

The Germans have rounded up ten men they suspect are Jews, and plan to deport them to concentration camps.

Some of the ten are in denial, others are shocked and bewildered, but gradually the truth is revealed to them as their identity papers are scrutinized and they are checked for circumcision, the central event of the play.

("Only Jews are circumcised" was almost true in France in 1942.)

A Long Undressing
NZ, 1995
Dancer and choreographer Michael Parmenter's autobiographical solo piece

"My tonsils and foreskin ran off together when I was eight"
- coinciding with the arrival of a new stepfather.

Removal of tonsils and foreskin together was so common in the mid-20th century that Tonsillectomy and Circumcision was abbreviated to "T & C".

Love's Labours Lost
UK, c.1590

Moth farewells Costard with "Adieu!" Apparently mishearing him - or pretending to - Costard replies

"My sweet ounce of man's flesh! my incony [pretty, delicate] Jew!" (iii 1 142) In modern, literal English, perhaps: "Me with this cute foreskin? Some Jew!" On stage, he would probably use some business to indicate his meaning.
Master Class
US, 1995
Solo play by Terrence McNally about diva Maria Callas

In a cutaway scene the actress plays both Callas and Aristotle Onassis and, as Onassis, says that in return for her glamour and fame he gives her his “thick uncircumcised Greek dick”.

There is no reason Onassis should mention being (Greek or) intact - a detail only salient to the (American) playwright. Callas' first husband was Italian, and there is no reason to suppose she knew any other kind.

Mates and Lovers
NZ, 2010

History of gay men in New Zealand by Ronald Triferio Nelson, based on the book by Chris Brickell, with a cast of two

During World War Two:

Rangi: How, pray tell, am I expecting, you ask? To be truthful, Ma'am, your Johnnie takes his little ole Yankee Doodle and sticks it up my...

Johnnie (an American on Rest & Recreation in New Zealand): “Little ole”? But all Americans are hung like horses. Everybody knows that. (to the audience) He should talk, half of what Rangi had was fucking foreskin! In fact, he had enough foreskin to upholster the backseat of a ’39 Chevy coup'. [At that time the circumcision rate of both Americans and New Zealanders would have been about 50%]

In the present, Trevor, a Māori, and Simon, a Pākehā (non-Māori), are admiring a carved wooden box:

Trevor: It’s a waka huia, box for taonga, a box for treasures.

Simon (campish): Perfect for the bedside table don’t you reckon? You know, for amyl, condoms and lube, well, maybe a few somewhat smaller toys.

Trevor: This is amazing

Simon: Look at that, they’re [carved figures on the box] sixty-nining. (Pause) Pretty hung for Maori...

Trevor: Look at the handle.

Simon: They’re docking! …I thought you and I invented that down at Vinegar Hill that summer. Guess all these guys would have been uncut, huh? [They are almost all intact again.]

The Merchant of Venice
UK, c.1595

When Jessica prepares to run away from her father Shylock to marry the Christian Lorenzo, she promises to bring some of her father's money with her, and Lorenzo's friend Gratiano jokes that Jessica is

"...by my hood, a gent[i]le and no Jew." (II iv 52) His "hood" in this context is his foreskin, Shakespeare borrowing an existing oath (used previously by Chaucer in "Troilus and Criseyde") perhaps in reference to a monk's cowl.

Circumcision is never directly mentioned in the Merchant. Shylock proposes that if Antonio fails to pay his debt, Shylock will take a pound of his flesh "in what part of your body pleaseth me." (I iii 150). But "flesh" was a euphemism for penis, so an Elizabethan audience would understand that Shylock intended to circumcise and/or castrate Antonio. Only in the trial scene does Portia remind Shylock that the flesh is "to be by him cut off / Nearest the merchant's heart" (IV i 232-3) and Shylock admits '"Nearest his heart," those are the very words.' (IV i 255) - though he (or rather Shakespeare) may have intended the words to mean that Antonio's foreskin was the dearest thing to him.

In Shakespeare and the Jews, James Shapiro points out that "Shylock will cut his Christian adversary in that part of the body where the Christians believe themselves to be truly circumcised." (quoted in Glick, p 104) Thus, Shapiro points out, forcing Shylock to convert to Christianity is a particularly accurate turning of the tables: Shylock's baptism "will metaphorically uncircumcise him," and "the circumcising Jew is metamophosed through conversion into a gentle Christian."

Mosheh
Israel/USA, 2011
Opera in Hebrew about the life of Moses, composed and designed by Yoav Gal

Mosheh Offers a Testament to. . . Something

Bible sci-fi awaits you at Here

... Moses's early life unfolds in slow-moving, abstract tableaux set to shimmering songscapes: the patriarch's babyhood boating among the reeds; his sojourn at the Egyptian court; an emergency circumcision by his wife as a prophylactic measure against demons (a scene left out of The Ten Commandments) [referencing Exodus 4:24-6, which does not mention Moses being circumcised or demons] .... Mosheh is a very uneven experience. ...

review by Jacob Gallagher-Ross in the Village Voice, February 2, 2011

Naked Boys Singing
USA, 2004
Musical revue about male anxieties, largely presented in the nude by nine men.
  • Includes a number, "The Bliss of a Bris", sung by a Jewish man "remembering" how he was feted and admired up to the moment of his circumcision, which is presented as comic, without blood or significant pain - or any change to his penis, visible throughout. The emphasis is on the change in treatment of his sexuality thereafter.

    The Bliss of a Bris

    "They said it was Divine!
    And toasted it with wine
    And behaved as if it had a Pedigree...

    Oh, the bliss Of a Bris
    When they all congregate to
    Admire your penis
    They stare
    And the glare
    Of their idolization
    Is brighter as Venus.

    They're awed
    They applaud
    As they thrill at the sight
    Of its dazzling perfection

    They gasp
    As they grasp
    How sublime it will be
    When it has an erection

    They rave at the length
    And the marvelous angle
    They kvell at the girth
    And they plotz at the dangle
    It doesn't get better than this
    The bliss of a bris

    All: Mazel Tov!

    You suppose that these roses
    Are going to be thrown every day
    Wheeeeeeee!
    Ah, but then...
    They snip off the tip
    Once you've shown it
    And that's when they say
    "Don't expose it again!"

    Music & Lyrics by Marie Cain

  • Another song, about varieties of penises, includes a chant "Cut! Uncut!"
but the fact goes unremarked that most of the men in the show are circumcised, or all, depending on the production - or seem to be:

Tim Trent, Marketing by Permission November 4, 2009

In 2001 I saw the Off Broadway show Naked Boys Singing. The clue is in the title. Naked boys sing. To a man they were all cut.

Until one who wore his foreskin retracted had it roll down. A real intact penis in the USA is a rarity in an adult man. This guy had a convertible!

After he left and returned to the stage it had ben superglued in the retracted position again - to look like the others?

Filmed with slight changes in 2007.
Othello
UK, c.1604
As Othello kills himself he reminds his hearers that depite his despicable killing of Desdemona, he did the state some service: I took by the throat the circumcised dog, and smote him - thus. (v ii 354)Othello, being a Moor, would have been, like his Turkish foe, circumcised. It is not clear that Shakespeare knew that.

Regardless of these ambiguities, there is no doubt that Shakespeare valued the foreskin and deplored circumcision.

Part Time Prostitute
New Zealand, 2012

One-woman show by Lucy Johnson, who blogged and kept notes about her experiences as a worker in a mid-range brothel in New Zealand, where prostitution is legal.

I encountered ... botched circumcisions.

[A high proportion] of the men who wanted [unorthodox practices] were circumcised.

All - every last one - of the men who wanted sex without a condom were circumcised.

It explains ... my strong views on circumcision.

Wellington, February 22-25. 2012; New York, March 20-28, 2012

Visiting Mr Green
US, 1997

Sentimental comedy about a young man, Ross, required by court order to visit an old Jewish man he's injured. It turns out that he is Jewish too.

Ross: I don’t remember my bris but the evidence is unmistakable!

The evidence certainly is mistakable. All Ross can deduce with certainty is that since he speaks English, he's probably American.

Der Yiddische Tiresias
The Jewish Tiresias

US, 1926

(In Greek mythology, the gods turned Tiresias into a woman as punishment for striking two snakes while they were mating.)

Play in Yiddish by Peretz Pntschik

(Based on a summary by Richard Hyfler, Forbes, May 27, 2011)

Tsurik, an itinerant seller of books and amulets, returns home after a long sales trip to find his adored wife, Susan, stripped to her petticoat and in the arms of the shirtless Zyosha, a Cossack [and therefore intact] tailor.

Though Susan insists she’s done nothing wrong, Tsurik chastises her She moves back in with her parents.

In Act Two Tsurik immediately regrets forcing her departure based on circumstantial evidence alone, but he reminds himself that if Susan slept with Zyosha, he will never be able to win her back, quoting Bereshit Rabba (the midrash on Genesis) to the effect that it is hard for a woman who has slept with an uncircumcised man to separate from him. “Perhaps,” he says, “I might have been able to satisfy her if only my parents of blessed memory hadn’t subjected me to a ritual circumcision at the age of eight days!” Alas, his condition is irreversible, and he has no choice but to rummage among his papers, find his marriage contract and begin divorce proceedings.

“Not so fast,” an unearthly offstage voice declares. Tsurik is frightened and wonders whether he is hearing the voice of God, an angel or his next-door neighbor, Lazer. “You’re wondering what it would be like to be uncircumcised,” the voice says. “See for yourself whether it makes any difference.” As thunder rattles and sparks fly, Tsurik is transformed. Peeking into his pants, Tsurik says, “What a schmuck!” [=penis, in this context]

Susan admits that she still loves Tsurik but that after he was on the road for ten years she had herself declared a widow by a rabbinical court. “I couldn’t wait any longer,” she says. “But why Zyosha?” he asks. “Because,” she explains, “Zyosha claimed me. He is your long-lost brother Zlote!”

Levirate marriage requires the brother of the deceased to marry his brother’s widow (if and only if there was no issue from the original marriage). The upshot is that Tsurik and Susan will once again take their vows beneath a wedding canopy.

But before the wedding takes place, Tsurik once again is left alone on the stage. He beseeches God to restore his member before his wedding night. Miraculously, God responds. “When you say ‘restore,’” he says, “do you mean to the original way or how it’s been since you were circumcised?”

God agrees to return Tsurik to his circumcised state. “But you realize,” God tells him, “that now you’ll never know what it’s like to…”

“I don’t want to know,” Tsurik says.

“Then,” God says, “you probably also don’t want to know that you never had a brother, either.”

After a brief blackout the wedding music begins.

Unsurprisingly, one point of all this is to reconcile Jewish men to being circumcised, and not to wonder what they're missing.

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Entertainment M-Z
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(Production details about most of these films are obtainable offsite from the Internet Movie Database.)

Related pages:

  • TV
  • "That Thing" - portrayal of the foreskin and circumcision in popular media
  • Circumcision and the foreskin in literature.

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