That’s a Wrap! What’s Up? Re-Cap: The Annapolis Film Festival
Courtesy of Annapolis Film Festival
The Annapolis Film Festival was a great success! In its third year the festival had more patrons than ever. Their theme this year was “Talk Movie to Me”. It was fun to make friends in line and talk movies, and well worth the wait to see these special films. Following is my re-cap on the four films I had the privilege of seeing during fest. Don’t worry, no spoiler alerts required. For more information visit AnnapolisFilmFestival.com.
Little White Lie a Documentary by Lacey Schwartz
The film opens with a dichotomy of sounds – intermittent lightning strikes in between pleasant open piano chords outside the window of a house where a bride and company are getting ready for a wedding. Next, we see a close shot in a single frame – two shades of makeup being blended together by a brush before the camera pans up towards its application on the filmmaker, Lacey Schwartz, who uses this documentary to examine how family secrets shape our identity.
“It never occurred to me that I was passing. I actually grew up believing I was White.” She grew up in Woodstock, New York where her appearance was acknowledged as different than other family members but explained away by noting that Lacey’s Great Grandfather on her Father’s side was Sicilian and had a darker complexion with thicker hair, closely resembling her features.
In high school, she dated a Biracial boy. That was the first time she questioned her race and the Great Grandfather story. Her boyfriend supported Lacey and encouraged her to question the story. From his point of view, it was obvious that Lacey was Biracial just like him.
Later, she attended Georgetown University. Submitting a photo was part of the application process. Based on her photo, Lacey was invited to join the Black Student Alliance Group. “It all seemed a little too easy when I joined the Black Student Alliance Group but at that point I was ready to try on a new identity.” Lacey felt comfortable among her peers in the Black Student Alliance Group where she was accepted and finally enjoyed “a sense of belonging”. But she didn’t know what to do with the part of herself that was still White, “I was still a nice Jewish girl with nice Jewish parents.”
While in college she still didn’t have answers about her heritage and went to therapy to deal with her identity struggle. She taped her therapy sessions for a Film class. Her relationship with her father while in college became strained. Lacey states, “I only knew that being Black was part of breaking his heart.”
Learn how Lacey discovers the truth and see how she confronts her family and deals with functioning in three worlds; the liberal White world of Woodstock, the traditional Jewish world, and a world with her African-American comrades at Georgetown during the time when Hip-Hop culture was on the rise. Today, she is at peace with her experience as she explored and claimed her identity and individuality. She closes the film by stating that although she is now married, it seemed fitting for her to keep her last name, "Schwartz" – a clearly Jewish name that means Black.
When I asked Lacey during the Skype interview session after the film if she will consciously raise her children to look at race and culture with a sociological point of view, she admitted, “They aren’t yet speaking since they are only 15 months old but yes, absolutely!” I feel that it is important for everyone to see this film and make a conscious effort to see the world with a sociological point of view. Little White Lie became available on iTunes this past Tuesday. For more information on the film visit LittleWhiteLietheFilm.com.
Appropriate Behavior by Desiree Akhavan is a narrative film about a young woman struggling to strike the balance between becoming an ideal Persian daughter and hip young Brooklynite. Even though she feels she is not quite anything enough, she starts to find her way through self-reflection and life experiences. This character has a knack for putting her foot in her mouth, which most would find off-putting but the audience embraces this character trait as endearing. The film was an Official Selection at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. For more information on how to view the film visit Appropriatebehaviormovie.com.
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker
Sophie Tucker was there for Vaudeville, she was there for the invention of the phonograph, there for the invention of radio, the invention of ‘Talkies’, and the invention of television. Sophie Tucker was immensely talented at making her presence known! Before Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was the outrageous Sophie Tucker, renowned as the nation’s first pop star. Bawdy and sassy, a brilliant performer and business woman, this documentary examines how Sophie Tucker came from nothing and made something of herself against the odds. She was a mentor of Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis and idolized by Bette Midler and Tony Bennett, among others. In the documentary, Tony Bennett credits Sophie Tucker as “being the first White Jazz Singer and the most underrated singer that ever lived.” For more information on this film and its Netflix release visit SophieTucker.com.
The world premiere of Midnight Sun was at the Venice Film Festival in 2014. The U.S. premiere was at the Annapolis Film Festival! The filmmaker Brando Quilici (Director of High Arctic Scenes), stated he felt “Annapolis is the best place to premiere the film in the United States since the movie captures the Arctic – the land of wind, ocean and waves”, which Annapolis can appreciate. This movie tells the fictional tale of a 14-year old boy who defies nature to reunite a polar bear cub with its mother. This fictional story was shot on location using a real polar bear cub. The bear cub really bonded with the boy trainer who trained for one month and learned over 1,000 commands. The filmmaker chuckled while explaining that, “on the set the boy and the bear were playing all the time in between takes”.
The filmmaker worked at National Geographic studying the Arctic for 19 years and created a 13 part series on the Arctic, which informed Midnight Sun. Quilici said the mission of his film is to show “how beautiful the Arctic is and how it needs to be protected and safe”. During the movie filmed entirely on location in Canada, a character comes to assist the boy. Together, they meet Inuit natives who help them along their journey. The character notes, “We are the ones destroying their culture and they still welcome us with open arms.”
When the producers of the film were told about the concept of the film they thought the filmmaker was crazy to create a movie with real wild untrained polar bears and a trained polar bear cub sharing scenes with a young boy. The film was completed in 2013 and the editing process took one year. The cinematography was stunning and live action shots on melting and breaking ice islands were extremely impressive. The filmmaker confirmed that no CGI was used in the making of the movie and he ensured the safety of the cast and crew at all times and especially during the moving ice shots. The concept and cinematography were the highlights of this family-friendly film. For more information visit AnnapolisFilmFestival.com.