RITE OF PASSAGE is an in-depth look at the practice of piercing the body and its meanings to different peoples around the globe. The film takes the viewer from the fashionable, youth-oriented body piercing fad found in the US to the most remote parts of Africa and South Asia, where piercing the body represents religious devotion, marital status and tribal identity.

The film begins at New York Adorned in lower Manhattan, one of the trendiest piercing studios and dealer of exotic tribal jewelry. Here we meet body piercer Jon Guac, who will take us through his day of "extreme" piercings. Jon, who as a child was inspired by his father's National Geographic magazines, has spent years stretching his earlobes to mimic the nomadic tribes of East Africa.

The film follows Jon's incredible journey into the southernmost part of Ethiopia where he encounters the Mursi, an entire tribe that looks just like him. Here, deep in the Omo Valley, we witness the ritual piercing of a young boy's ears as he is welcomed to manhood and the lip plate piercing of a young girl about to be wed. Jon's encounter with the tribe that have inspired his life is an emotional one, as he learns that for these people, piercing the body is one of the ways the tribe maintains its identity and culture in an age of increasing globalization.

As Jon's journey ends, another begins. From Africa we travel East and into the jungles of Sri Lanka. Here, we catch up with an extremely colorful group of swamis, monks and Europeans who are making their 40-day pilgrimage to the jungle town of Kataragama. Here, devotees of Murugan pay penance and fulfill vows by engaging in kavadi which includes radical acts of piercing: Muslim Fakirs pierce their heads and tongues and Hindus hang from trees suspended by hooks. It is in this frenzied environment that we meet Dinah Barton, a British woman who has left home to engage in Kavadi for the god she now worships. Her spiritual journey through the help of Tamil devotee Sandana illustrates the use of piercing as an offering to one's god.

From Sri Lanka we return home to America to look for our own spiritual traditions involving piercing. The Native American Sundance ceremony in South Dakota--where Lakota peoples fast and dance for 4 days--culminates in piercing the flesh. Natives pierce their nipples, hang buffalo skulls from the wound and run until the flesh breaks. The flesh will be offered to the Creator on the giving tree. Through photos, interviews with Lakota chiefs and archive footage, the sacred and secret practice will be revealed.

The influence of Native American, African and Asian piercing traditions culminates in Texas, where we end our film. Here, the members of TSD - Traumatic Stress Discipline fight boredom and spiritual inertia through radical acts of body suspensions, which they say, strengthens their minds and bodies. Essie, Pat, Alan and Ron have gathered from across the country to suspend one another from shark hooks. Their intense experiences, both positive and negative unfold here.