Just the Tip
Struggling with faith and tradition, Jewish filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler explores the controversial subject of circumcision in her documentary short “Just The Tip.”
For filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler, it all started with her boyfriend’s penis.
That’s the issue at the heart of Just The Tip, a new provocative comedy from Reboot Studios and comedian Jessie Kahnweiler that takes on the controversial topic of male circumcision. Kahnweiler partnered with Reboot Studios, the production arm of the Jewish arts and culture nonprofit Reboot, to produce the film on a topic at the intersection of religion, identity, masculinity, body image and bodily consent.
At a time when antisemitism is on the rise and Jewish identity seems to be in constant flux, the film explores this controversial, yet long-honored ritual with humor, heart and fearlessness. It looks at the place this tradition has in both the singular and collective Jewish future.
Circumcision extends far beyond the Jewish community and is in the crosshairs of the cultural zeitgeist right now. The overall percentage of newborns circumcised is on the decline. From 1979 through 2010, the national rate of newborn circumcision during birth hospitalization declined 10% overall, from 64.5% to 58.3%, according to the most recently reported numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Health Care Statistics.*
As a female filmmaker, the topic of male circumcision is not something Kahnweiler ever thought she’d be interested in, and as a Jew, she just assumed she would circumcise her child if she had a boy. She had never even seen a foreskin in real life. But then she fell in love with a goy (guy who is not Jewish) and the issue of circumcision came up. Circumcision of male babies in a ritual called a Bris is an important tradition for many Jews who see it as a connection to past generations – it literally marks the entering of the covenant of the Jewish people. Kahnweiler’s boyfriend did not see it as a foregone conclusion that they would do it. Kahnweiler started chatting up every male in her life, both Jewish and gentile, about the topic, asking intimate questions about their foreskin. Did they miss it? Do they like it? Do they have foreskin FOMO?
“It led me to wonder, if I ever gave birth to a boy, what would I do about his foreskin? After all, it’s never too early to become a neurotic Jewish mother,” Kahnweiler said. “As a Jew who is really interested in being both 100% my authentic self and also a loyal member of the tribe I knew I had found my next film.”
The film explores the question of how important it is to keep up this sacred tradition? Can you be a “good Jew” and also keep your foreskin? What are the disadvantages of remaining “intact?” How do you navigate this process with your partner, family, and community?
“As a comedian, I’m interested in any topic that is so sensitive and feels impossibly awkward to talk about. My favorite thing about being a Jewish artist is that curiosity is basically in our DNA. As a woman, I have enough distance from the topic to actually go there and ask those hard (or flaccid!) questions,” Kahnweiler said.
Reboot Studios funds and develops Jewish content across theater, television, film, podcasts, music and publishing, empowering storytellers to transform society through a Jewish lens.
*This statistic varies among socioeconomic, ethnic and geographic groups and wouldn’t include Jewish babies who are traditionally circumcised at a Bris after they are out of the hospital.
Jessie KahnweilerWriter, Director and Actress
Jessie Kahnweiler’s films have been featured everywhere from The New York Times to the Cannes Film Festival. She wrote, directed, and starred in The Skinny, a dark comedic series based on her 10-year relationship with bulimia. The Skinny was produced by Joey Soloway, Paul Young, and Refinery29. It premiered at Sundance and won a Webby for best series. Kahnweiler also developed Viagra Diaries for CW, Bump for ABC Digital, and staffed on Skam AUSTIN for Facebook Watch. Fox Digital commissioned Jessie to write and direct the comedic thriller Retreat which premiered on Hulu. Currently she is developing a TV series about Jewish Polish teenagers during Hitler’s rise to power and a musical about Anne Frank. She lives in LA with her cat.