- Just stopped by a panel discussion event at today’s Annapolis Film Festival on “The Pitch” and am looking forward to seeing a few movies this weekend. In case you’re curious, I got to preview one of the wonderful feature documentaries entitled, “Little White Lie,” written, directed and produced by Lacey Schwartz; and below I share a post/review.The evening I watched “Little White Lie” I’d just returned from a visit to my family home in Baltimore. Standing around the dining room table, my brother David Maril, our cousin Ron Becker and I tried to identify a stash of old family photographs. We searched our memories trying to recognize names and face of relatives going back several generations. There were photographs of my grandfather, a child sitting on a rocking horse and as a soldier in postwar France. Another larger photo showed my grandmother, as a young girl posing for a picture surrounded by her parents and four brothers and sisters in Bel Air Maryland where the family once had a farm. My grandmother, the eldest child, was ashamed of having been born in Russia. When the courthouse burned down and the birth records destroyed, she told everyone she was born in America. That was her little white lie. But some lies are much larger.The documentary “Little White Lie” begins with archival footage of the Jewish community in Brooklyn during the mid 20th century and there are old photographs and a timeline showing the Schwartz family arriving in the United States at the end of the 19th century. There is footage of old home movies showing parties, bat mitzvahs, picnics and other family events. Everyone looks happy.
We all grow up hearing stories about our grandparents and great-grand parents. But what if a one line of our ancestors had been completely wiped from the family history and another group of ancestors put in their place? What if our true heritage has been hidden?
Lacey Schwartz grew up believing both of her parents were her biological parents and that she was the descendent of Eastern European Jews, but that was only half the truth. The little girl and young woman in the family movies has darker skin and fuller features than her parents. When she asks questions about her appearance as a child she is told that her mother’s family had a Sicilian great-grandfather and that is why her skin is so dark. She accepts their explanations and when she looks in the mirror does not acknowledge her bi-racial heritage. Children believe their parents.
The movie is framed within the preparations for a wedding, Lacey’s wedding. As she tells her story, she shares with the viewers her belief that she did not feel ready to join her life with someone else’s until she understood the actions of her parents. They divorced when she was a teenager. What did her father know about the identity of Lacey’s biological father? Did he realize his wife had been unfaithful and that her lover had been African American? Why had her mother not been forthcoming with the truth about her heritage ? Her biological father was a family friend named Robert Parker, but he dies when Lacey is 30 with no opportunity to develop a relationship.
Lacey’s dad Robert Schwartz is the only father she has ever known. Although her bridegroom is African American, Lacey holds steadfast to Jewish traditions complete with the breaking of the glass as the two are pronounced man and wife. She decides to retain her last name of Schwartz, delighting in the double symbolism. The word “Schwartz” means black in German.
One of the many fine films coming to THE ANNAPOLIS FILM FESTIVAL.