SXSW Report: We Always Lie to Strangers

The film WE ALWAYS LIE TO STRANGERS premiered at this year's SXSW festival.

It’s far too easy for jaded cynics from the coasts to think of the U.S.’s “heartland” (a conception that itself is a complicated one) as a monolithic culture of guns, jingoism and intolerance. A studied rebuke to the dismissive idea of the flyover state, WE ALWAYS LIE TO STRANGERS from directors AJ Schnack and David Wilson challenges any number of these presumptions in its investigation of Branson, Missouri–a town with a population of about 10,000 that channels some 7.5 million tourists through it on an annual basis.

Branson, situated in the highland region of the Ozarks, appropriates the neon flash of Broadway and Vegas, but promises an ideal of wholesome entertainment bereft of uncouth language or nudity–essentially anything that could easily be considered offensive by social conservatives. In the tradition of much escapist entertainment, performances in Branson’s theaters seem infused with a Stepford-esque aesthetic that belies complicated realities: a saccharine ode to the American flag and the U.S. armed forces is presented without consideration for the terrible costs of war.

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