Little White Lie
with Lacey Schwartz Delgado
Little White Lie is a personal film about how the filmmaker came to terms with being raised as a white Jewish girl after discovering that her biological father was black.
Reflections by Sherry Chiang
The documentary Little White Lie (2014), conceptualized and directed by filmmaker Lacey Schwartz Delgado, raises many questions related to identity and shifts in self-perception. Following the screening event on August 18th, 2019 at the East Bay Community Center, she interacted with the audience, discussing perspectives on denial and acceptance.
First, Schwartz described how the concept of the film evolved. Little White Lie, she explains, shifted from a documentary focusing on an issue-based film about Jewish and black communities in 2002 to a deeply personal work when filming began in 2006. “What is the beginning, middle, and end [of the film],” Lacy said, becomes informed by shifts in self-perception. This relates to a bigger notion of the social construct race, where there is a choice between focusing on big societal issues versus individual familial structures. Lacey mentions that struggles around race are often experienced interpersonally, such as within families, instead of through overarching societal issues.
Lacey Schwartz, within Little White Lie, identifies as a black woman. When questioned by an audience member on whether her self-identity was exclusive or non-exclusive, specifically relating to Lacey’s origins of being born half Jewish, she says that while identifying as Jewish and black now, identities are fluid and that race is defined by perceptions of people.
While interviewing people after the question and answer session, I found out that another volunteer experienced a similar hiding and denial of identity. She, like Lacey, realized she had a different father following the beginning of college, yet she does not discuss the issue with her mother due to the cultural shame or stigma her mom would face, internally and externally. From other audience members, I found several second timer viewers of the film, and that Little White Lie became of personal significance to them because of its resonance with their stories.
Finding Kukan with Robin Lung
Director Robin Lung presented and discussed her film Finding KUKAN with community members at the Eastside Cultural Center in Oakland. Her film uncovers the lost story of Li Ling-Ai, a Chinese American woman whose documentary film KUKAN was recognized by the Academy Awards in 1942.
Asian American Studies Conference
We organized the panel Documenting the Undocumented: Building Partnerships Between Media and Activists to Combat Southeast Asian Deportation at the annual conference of the Association for Asian American Studies.
We explored how leveraging and creating collaborative networks between community advocates and media makers can strengthen resistance and raise awareness of successful opposition to unjust deportations, to policing and surveillance of black and brown communities, responses to racist public policy, and disengagement with narratives of divide and conquer.
Bad Feminists Making Films Live
With Ethnocine, we co-sponsored a Bad Feminists Making Films event at MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana), at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association with support from Rhiza Collective.
Tricia Creason-Valencia—Changing Boundaries: The History of San Jose tells the stories of working people, political leaders and dreamers who built the city of San Jose.
Elena Herminia Guzman—Smile4Kime explores mental health, race, and policing through the eyes and experience of a young African American woman dealing with the trauma of sexual assault.
Laura Menchaca Ruiz—Hay Betl7em, co-directed by Khader Handal, supplements occupation-centric media representations of Palestinians through Bethlehemites telling their stories.
Filmmakers discussed how their work addresses feminist intersectional analyses, including race, class, sexuality, nationality, gender, and/or religion at all stages of the filmmaking process.
The panel, Beyond Inclusivity: New Trends in Documentary Funding and Representation, also included Lisa Berger, Independent Arts and Media; Jenny Slattery, SFFILM; Debbie Ng, San Francisco Arts Commission; with moderator Marc Smolowitz.
We reviewed preliminary findings from our survey of emerging documentary filmmakers of color regarding their experiences of the industry and strategies for support.
Asian American Studies Conference
We presented at the annual conference of the Association for Asian American Studies with a panel titled: “Embracing West Asia (the Middle East) in Asian American Identity in Media Representation.”
We screened film clips by Ina Adele Ray, Sabereh Kashi, Jennifer Crystal Chien, and Raeshma Razvi on personal stories of family, friends, and community leaders of immigrant communities from Vietnam, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan.
We spoke on the cultural and historic relationship between West Asia (Middle East) and East and South Asian people. We supported thinking of Asian American more broadly to be inclusive of Middle Easterners, as a voluntary multiple identity in addition to other identities.
Two sold out events took place on February 17th and 18th in Oakland, California and brought together community members of diverse ethnic and faith backgrounds.
Tales from the Middle East
With support from California Humanities, Neda Nobari Foundation, and in collaboration with Kehilla Synagogue and the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, we presented three filmmakers from the Middle East who engaged audience members in short film screenings and community dialogues.
Family and War
Women Filmmakers Asserting the Personal
We co-promoted a panel discussion produced by IC3: Incubating Creativity, Community & Civic Engagement, featuring Ina Adele Ray and Sabereh Kashi presenting their films-in-progress and sharing personal and family stories on global conflict in Iran, Vietnam, and the U.S.
Emerging Filmmakers of Color Convenings
We hosted two convenings in September and October 2017 with emerging documentary filmmakers of color. About 25 filmmakers participated in-person and online. We discussed challenges, trends, and solutions in distribution and funding of personal story films.
As a follow-up, we will be soliciting written feedback in a survey and will report back on the findings.
Personal Perspectives in Asian American Documentary Film
- Sabereh Kashi—Home Yet Far Away An Iranian American reconciles two homelands in conflict. She explores the evolution of immigrant identity amidst stigma against Iran and Islam in American culture.
- Jennifer Crystal Chien—Waiting for Bekir An immigrant from Turkey lives an ordinary life in the U.S. while pursuing the American Dream. He is one amongst a community of international middle class immigrants.
- Raeshma Razvi—Sailor, Sufi, Spy Robert Darr is a white American who follows an unusual path of being asked to serve as the Sufi spiritual leader of an Afghan refugee community in the U.S.