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Review by Randy Shulman
Rating: (2 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/19/2008, 11:00 AM
Feature presentation, $10 at 6th & I Synagogue
Hebrew, German with English subtitles
WHILE WATCHING this documentary, in which Oden Lotan, an Israeli gay man, ventures on an exploration of what it means for a Jew to be circumcised, I glanced at the clock thinking I must be nearing the end of the 52-minute film. To my horror, we were at minute 20. It felt like an eternity had passed, as though the film existed in some bizarre time warp.
To his credit, Lotan tries his best to make his movie interesting, incorporating semi-animated segments and looking beyond his own obsession with his missing foreskin and into the lives of others, including a Russian convert who undergoes the circumcision ritual as an adult. We get the opinions of various mohels (religious men who perform the circumcision in Jewish rituals known as bris), and we learn that circumcision is the most common surgical procedure on earth.
But some Jews see it as needless butchery, as ”unenlightened and inhumane.” To that end, Lotan visits a group of Israeli Jews who meet in secret and call themselves ”Community of Parents of Intact Children.” One member of the group, a lawyer, claims that the procedure ”constitutes assault.” A little extremist, to be sure, but no more so than the footage of Orthodox Jews protesting Tel Aviv’s gay parade — one of the few moments that helps the film attain a moderately gay slant — with the vitriol, ”All you care about is the anus! Maniacs! Abominations!” It’s a quick jolt, but there really is no point to it other than to fill time. And the one thing Quest doesn’t need is to fill more time.
At least in the Jewish religion, it’s that unkind cut that marks a person as part of the Jewish race. You can be a secular Jew, but once circumcised, you’re still part of the tribe. ”Can a sign carved into [a man’s] flesh really bind him to the Chosen People?” wonders Lotan. The answer comes from a professor at an Israeli university: ”You can disavow all other external symbols [of Judaism]… but this is something you can’t change.”
If the movie weren’t so sleep-lulling (I had to watch it three times, since I kept falling asleep at minute 25 only to wake at the final credits), if it were only 20 minutes, then it might make for a brisk, interesting featurette. As it stands, it’s only of interest to those Jewish men who really want to know why their little fellas no longer have their trutlenecks.