Lacey Schwartz on ‘Little White Lie’ documentary
For her directorial debut, the documentary “Little White Lie” (2014), Lacey Schwartz shared an incredibly personal story, one that uncovered some of her family’s most closely guarded secrets.
But she hopes that when audiences see the film, such as when it screens Friday for the Film Society of Summit, they leave the cinema thinking more about their own stories than hers.
Schwartz of Montclair used “Little White Lie” to tell her story of being raised in an upper-middle-class Jewish home in Woodstock, New York, not knowing until the age of 18 that she was bi-racial. Schwartz eventually learned that her biological father was a black man with whom her mother had had a years-long affair, not the man who raised her.
As the film chronicles Schwartz’s work to come to terms with her own identity and build her relationships with her parents, it also subtly raises much larger questions regarding race, family and personal identity.
“Part of the value of me going around (with the film) is to be able to talk about how much I’ve thought about these larger issues and how much I think our personal experiences are so important in determining what the larger societal conversation is around these issues,” said Schwartz. “So it’s been really incredibly seeing people’s reactions (to the film), how people can so personally react, and then bring it back to larger issues.”
Schwartz will speak following the 8 p.m. screening of the film on Friday night for the Film Society of Summit at MONDO Summit, 426 Springfield Avenue.The film’s website, littlewhiteliethefilm.com, works to keep the conversation going after the credits roll, with materials including a conversation-starting interactive card game and a discussion guide.
While her original vision for the film was much broader in scope, Schwartz said the perspective of the film evolved during the editing process.
“I started off wanting to make a film about dual identity and trying to be two things at one time and how you internally integrate those two identities,” she said. “So I started off making a film that was a little more topical. I was going to include my story, but it was really going to be about how other people were managing being both black and Jewish.
“That was what I was thinking about and then I realized for me, fundamentally, I was never going to be able to integrate by dual identities until I figured out how to deal with my family’s secrets. And so, that’s the moment where I realized that I was trying to do a bigger topic film. But for me, I was really more into the smaller narrative, and so that was why I decided to take the film this way, when I realized that so many other people have family secrets that they were struggling with and that were affecting their identities as well.”