Documentary explores racial identity
Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz has an intriguing and compelling personal story to tell in her documentary, “Little White Lie,” screening at 3 p.m. at the Philadelphia Film Festival (PJFF) Pre-Fest, taking place Sunday at the Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St.
Since childhood, Schwartz, who was raised believing she was a white (although her skin, though fair, clearly was not white), Jewish girl from Woodstock, N.Y., knew she was different: Her dark complexion set her apart from the rest of her family, as did her boisterous, black curls. But it wasn’t until her freshman year at Georgetown University that she began to understand why.
Growing up, her parents never spoke about her origins, and Schwartz had no reason to think of herself as anything but white. In “Little White Lie,” which won the Audience Award and the Producer’s Award at the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival, the filmmaker “bravely pulls back the curtain on her family secrets,” raising larger questions through the frank and sometimes raw conversations with family and friends — particularly the crucial moment when Schwartz finally confronts her mother and demands the truth.
In this deeply personal and riveting exploration of bi-racial identity, Schwartz asks: What makes us who we are? And how do we rebuild our identities after learning the assumptions underlying them are false?
During a recent interview, Schwartz shared her motivation for documenting such a personal and compelling story explaining, “I was really fascinated with looking at, on a larger level, what is the process that mixed individuals or people with multiple identities have to deal with to come to terms with how their different identities integrate internally — specifically Black Jews. Rather than doing a larger, broader film that I was interested in — I definitely think it affects society on a larger level, because I was also, myself, struggling with it. There’s a lot that society fails to talk about or deal with head-on … Until families can talk openly and honestly about things, it’s very hard to expect the larger society to do so.
“I really felt that by doing the film about family secrets and how to deal with these things in an open and honest way, [we] could move forward with a lot of the issues that I felt were really important for us to talk about on a larger societal level.”
Lacey Schwartz will be present at the screening to have a conversation with Dr. Elliot Ratzman, associate professor, Temple University and PJFF committee member. For tickets, visit https://pjff.org.