Lacey Schwartz wasn’t going to direct the documentary about her life growing up in a Jewish family and discovering that her dark skin wasn’t the result of a Sicilian ancestory, and that the man who had raised her was not her biological father. Every director she approached told her that such a personal story about identity, open secrets, and the power of denial was a story that only she herself could tell. The result after eight years was her debut feature film, co-directed with James Adolphus.
When I spoke to Lacey and her mother, Peggy, about LITTLE WHITE LIE the day after the doc’s world premiere at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, it was something that came up after I asked Lacey about the advantages of being a filmmaker who was not being objective about her subject matter. As befits someone trained as a lawyer, her answer was concise, and as someone who has grown up in several different realities, touched on the nature of truth in a way that only someone with her perspective could.
We went on to talk about both their reactions to that startling moment when Georgetown University assigned Lacey a racial identity when Lacey herself had not specified one on her application, the relief of revelation, and why hands can tell a story all on their own. She went on to expound on the advantages of having a producer and co-writer who is also a visual anthropologist.
Even though her documentary is finally finished, Lacey isn’t done with examining the effect of little white lies on families, and so she has founded the Little White Lie Project, an interactive project that uses the formula little white lie = family + denial. Her hope is that her own experience with her family’s little white lie can help other families deal with their own little white lies and remove the power of those lies.
Direct and open, mother and daughter radiated a warmth and an unbreakable bond, perhaps made stronger for what they have gone through.
LITTLE WHITE LIE is Lacey’s incisive, riveting documentary about family secrets, relative perception, and establishing identity. Lacey grew up as a white Jewish girl in Woodstock New York. Her dark complexion explained by the fact that her paternal great-grandfather had been Sicilian. It was when she applied to Georgetown University that her racial identity was all but decided for her, though, even though she had not checked the box designating race on her application. Full of tense moments, that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes revelatory, sometimes funny, and sometimes incredibly tender, the film follows Lacey in her conversations about her origins with her mother, Peggy, her father, her relatives, and her friends growing up, revealing fascinating truths about how we perceive ourselves and each other in the context of the identities we write for ourselves. The film made its world debut at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and this is Lacey Schwartz’s debut feature film.
For more information about the Little White Lie Project, and where the film is screening around the country, click here.