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We Always Lie to Strangers takes an honest and odd look into Branson

Gay, straight and always sold-out
Gay, straight and always sold-out
Author's collection

Americans from across the heartland and beyond flock year-round to Branson, Missouri, making it a multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry. Now a new film looks at the theatrical boomtown through the eyes of its entertainers. We Always Lie to Strangers: The Incredible True Story of Branson, Missouri (Virgil Films) is a must.
Five years in the making, We Always Lie to Strangers is a story of family, community, music and tradition set against the backdrop of Branson, Missouri, one of the biggest tourist destinations in America. A remote Ozark Mountain town of just 10,500, Branson hosts more than 7.5 million tourists a year and generates nearly $3 billion in annual tourism revenue.
At the heart of Branson's appeal are the more than 100 staged music shows that have earned the town the moniker of "the live music capital of the world" (its theaters boast more total seats than Broadway). These shows are well known for their traditional, family-style entertainment---no profanity, no nudity, no gambling, healthy doses of gospel and respect for veterans. Crowds from around the country, and particularly from the Midwest, flock to Branson for this return to old-fashioned values. Among some stars closely associated with Branson include Dolly Parton, the Osmonds, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Lettermen, illusionist Rick Thomas, Neal McCoy, Yakov Smirnoff, Larry Gatlin, Mickey Gilley.
Directors AJ Schnack and David Wilson and producer Nathan Truesdell spent the past five years documenting Branson and profiling four families who live and perform there: the Presleys, who first performed in 1967; Joe and Tamra Tinoco and their 4-year-old daughter; the Lennons, an extended entertainment clan whose members include the Lennon Sisters of "Lawrence Welk Show" fame; and Chip Holderman and Ryan Walton, a gay couple who perform in separate shows.
The filmmakers found, as one of their subjects notes, that "Branson seems very simplistic on the outside, like you could paint it in a dozen sentences. I think you'll find the surface truth doesn't match the actuality." Set against the backdrop of a country dealing with economic uncertainty and changes in attitudes on social issues, these four families form a composite both of Branson and of contemporary America.