- 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.
Angela Gibbs wrote and directed the short film “The Ties That Bind” shown at the Annapolis Film Festival yesterday in at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. I saw a number of thought provoking films, but what I didn’t anticipate were the opportunities to meet and talk with the film makers, writers, and actors. The presence of phenomenal actress Marla Gibbs (remember her from the television series The Jeffersons?) took me by surprise. My friend Catherine Davidson texted me afterwards and told me Marla is 81 years old! Hard to believe. Her daughter Angela wrote the script inspired by the true story of her friend Sandra Davis who has an abusive alcoholic mother, but overcame her past and became a successful businesswoman. Today the festival continues. At noon over at the Bay Theatre. one of the short films showing is a”A Younger Man”. I had the opportunity to interview the screen writer earlier in the year and here is the link to the related article.
Everyone has a favorite movie and mine is “Groundhog Day.” I’ve watched it at least a half a dozen times, which is fitting since the premise of the film is that if you have the opportunity to do something over and over again, you have the ability to achieve perfection. Or at the very least, a happy ending. It stars one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, cast an ornery television meteorologist named Phil, who is sent to cover Groundhog’s Day in Punxsutawney Pa. He awakes the following morning only to discover he must relive Groundhog’s Day. As the movie progresses, a very irritable Phil starts to enjoy his fate, as he realizes he can use the knowledge he gains each day to enhance his experience the following day. It reminds me of a play you rehearse again and again until the actors have learned their lines and the technical cast their cues, until magically everything is in sync.
Our world has changed dramatically since “Groundhog Day” was released 20 years ago. Technological advances have made it easier to send photographs, messages, music, and video around the globe in a matter of seconds. Suddenly, with the aid of a device we can hold in the palm of our hand, we are all recording our experiences and sharing them in a variety of ways. The possibilities are endless. And while the captured moments we record may not achieve the polish of a scripted film or documentary, we have the freedom to experiment with little out-of-pocket cost. And if we work at it, again and again, some of us can become good videographers. We also start developing an appreciation of what it takes to make a professional film.
Here in Annapolis, Maryland, this weekend, we have the opportunity to meet aspiring and accomplished film producers, directors, and screenwriters from all over the world at the First Annual Annapolis Film Festival, through Sunday March 24th. It’s a chance to learn more about the business and art of making movies, as well as the ability to see and discuss a multitude of films.
Remember that even if you think you don’t have enough time to participate, you could just go for a day or afternoon. In the movie, “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray has the luxury of never running out of time, until he wakes up one morning in bed with news producer Rita (Andie McDowell), with whom he has fallen in love, and time moves forward again. Before his Groundhog day experience he was just too rushed to stop and contemplate what it was all about? Sound familiar?
And maybe just maybe the cold weather will dissipate and warmer temperatures will come back and we can feel like its really Spring!