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Documentary goes behind the music in Branson

tony orlando reuters.jpg

November 8, 2011. Tony Orlando singing at the Welk Resort Theater in Branson, Missouri. (Reuters)

Documentary filmmakers A.J. Schnack and David Wilson knew it would be easy to make fun of Branson, middle America's flag-waving, family-friendly celebration of musical variety shows and early-bird dinner specials.

The Midwest natives felt a stronger obligation to dig beneath the surface and portray local performers and town leaders as more than aw-shucks Ozark hillbillies.

The result is "We Always Lie to Strangers," a new film that tells a more nuanced story of how the southwest Missouri resort is dealing with the aftermath of an economic recession, an aging audience and performance troupes whose gay cast members live a version of "don't ask, don't tell" among their conservative Christian neighbors.

The documentary will be distributed nationally in 2014. It kicked off the annual St. Louis International Film Festival in November.

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