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An Interview with Award Winning Filmmaker Danae Elon

By Maria Esteves - May 10, 2009

The Eighth Tribeca Film Festival 2009 (TFF09) World Premiere of PARTLY PRIVATE, directed by Danae Elon, was held at the AMC Village Theatre, New York, Saturday, April 25, 3:45 pm. A special Q&A immediately followed with director Elon. She is winner of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival Best New York Documentary Award. Director Elon was interviewed in the Tribeca Filmmaker Lounge, Union Square Ballroom, New York, on Friday, May 1, 2009.

ME:  What inspired the making of the documentary film PARTLY PRIVATE?

DE:  Actually, the subject of circumcision bewildered me and how extreme it was. I didn't want to make a film that was pertaining to tradition, a historical account, or whether circumcision is right or wrong. I had a prior interest on the subject but I could never place a story. When I became pregnant with my first child, my husband Phillip Touitou one day said, " What are we going to do if it's a boy?"  He was really concern. I felt very uncomfortable about the questions that he posed me. At that particular moment I said, "It would be very interesting to use our discussions and pregnancy as a vehicle to tell the narrative of the story and develop the documentary." That's how the idea of the film came about. Our relationship and interpersonal exchange is the hook of the film.                 

ME:  Is there a book you recommend on the subject of circumcision?

DE:  Yes, Leonard Glick wrote a fantastic book "Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America."

ME:  How long did it take to make the film?

DE:  It took approximately three years to make the film. We began in 2005 and finished in January 2009.

ME:  What has been the audience reaction?

DE: The audience reaction at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival has been wonderful. At our world premiere, half the audience was my family therefore it doesn’t count. The second, third and fourth sold-out screenings, the audience laughed and cried. It was an incredible experience.

ME:  Did the film win awards?

DE:  Yes, we won the Best New York Documentary Award at the 8th Tribeca Film Festival 2009. It was the first award ever that I have been present to receive and taken by complete and utter surprise! I was flattered and amazed.

ME:  Where will PARTLY PRIVATE screen next?

DE:  In June 2009, the film will premiere at SILVERDOCS Festival.

ME: What were the challenges in making the film?

DE: The biggest challenge was not to fall into the redundancy and cliché that such a subject matter can create while keeping the balance of humor and story telling during my two pregnancies. I was 8 months pregnant with my second child when filming in Hebron, Israel. Cinema-tographer Andrew Dunn, producer Paul Cadieux, researcher Nancy Guerin and the team were very instrumental in making this film.        

ME: Any interest from film distributors?

DE: Yes, there is interest from film distributors.

ME: Will a DVD for PARTLY PRIVATE be available for purchase?

DE:  Hopefully, in the near future.

ME: What films have you directed?

DE: I directed two feature documentaries, in 1996, "Never Again, Forever" and in 2004, "Another Road Home." In 1998, I produced and directed "Wild Mint."

ME: Where and what year were you born?

DE: I was born in Israel, December 1970.  

ME: At what point in your life you became interested in the film

DE: My father Amos Elon was a well-known international writer, somehow as a child I shied away from writing and developed an interest in photography that led me to an art high school in Israel during the 1980s. I studied filmmaking from wonderful teachers who made the Israeli film industry what it is today. At 17, I highly regarded and respected one of my teachers who studied at New York University and decided I wanted to do what he did. A semi teenage crush led to a career in filmmaking.        

ME: Any new projects soon to follow?

DE: Yes, my next project is based on the Jewish prohibition where
you are not allowed to slander any fellow Jew.

Thank you, Danae.

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