SUMMIT, NJ — A striking documentary about race, and one woman’s experience growing up with dark skin in a Jewish family, is making its way to MONDO in Summit on Friday, Feb. 19, when The Film Society of Summit will screen, “Little White Lie,” with director Lacey Schwartz on hand.
After the screening, Schwartz will host a discussion about the documentary, which evokes a wide spectrum of reactions with its audiences.
“One of the things that’s interesting about my film is that everyone has a very personal reaction to it,” said Schwartz. “It’s really interesting to engage with people. Obviously it’s my own, very personal story, but it really opens up so many other people’s experiences and their little white lies. It’s really incredible to engage people on that level, with the different issues it raises with them.”
“Little White Lie,” which has been on the festival circuit since it premiered in 2014, starts out by following a younger Schwartz as she learns her biological father was not the man who had raised her — It was a black man who her mother had an affair with. Schwartz had not, as her family previously told her, inherited her dark skin from a Sicilian grandfather.
The revelation came following a separation by her parents, when Schwartz was just 18. Schwartz’s suspicions about her heritage had built up over the course of her life, in part because she had dark skin in an otherwise unanimously white family, and they were proven to be founded when Schwartz asked her mother for the truth.
“I was at the point where I’d been away at my first year of college, and was really ready to get my answer. For me, it was about being at that point in my life where I was ready for more information. Any conversation like that is going to be really difficult, but I had reached a breaking point,” said Scwhartz. “And the reaction of it, it’s like I talk about the film, is mixed. It’s about knowing the truth, but also all of the complications, too.”
There were many complications associated with her mother’s disclosure. Schwartz’s heavily Jewish family, for starters, “didn’t talk about” race, and for a while she didn’t have a conversation with anyone about what she’d learned. All of that, and more, is documented in “Little White Lie,” which was shot as Schwartz was going through these experiences.
“Because I was literally going through the process, it was part and parcel how I felt about it. I can’t separate the two from each other. It wasn’t like I went back and made the film, I was doing all of it as part of making the film,” said Schwartz. “That was integral to the process.”
But the documentary sheds some light on a specific race-related issue that some people face, through Schwartz’s perspective, and uses it as a way to explore how people talk about race in general.
“I think it says something about how racial identity is formed, and how so much of what we do and don’t talk about — it’s more about the formation of it. Some people have these strong racial conversations and some people don’t,” said Schwartz. “And it’s about how are we dealing with it, how are our racial identities being solved, if at all, I think are some of the issues the film raises.”
For more information on “Little White Lie,” visit Schwartz’s website, www.littlewhiteliethefilm.com, or contact The Film Society of Summit at 973-885-1983, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.summitfilmsociety.com.