Smile 'Til It Hurts

Music , American History, American Culture
Lee Storey
89 minutes


*Winner Special Jury Prize Traverse City Film Festival
*Official Selection Slamdance Film Festival
*Official Selection Full Frame Doc Festival
*Official Selection Big Sky Doc Film Festival
*Official Selection Florida Film Festival
*Official Selection DocuWeeks

"Lively and polished" - Variety

"A withering critique" - Village Voice

"A complex tale" - Arizona Republic

"surreal, hilarious...disturbing" - Orlando Weekly



SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS: The Up With People Story explores the clean-cut, smile-drenched singing phenomenon Up With People. Since 1965, this peppy youth group has sung to 20 million people worldwide, performed at four Superbowl halftime shows, and been parodied on The Simpsons and South Park. Talent was not required of its members, just a common enthusiastic vision to change the world one squeaky-clean song at a time. But its cheery facade concealed the more complicated reality of an organization founded on conservative American ideals and cult-like utopian ideology.

Up With People was born in response to the liberal counter-culture of the '60s by the ultra-conservative religious sect, Moral ReArmament. Over the years, they were embraced by world leaders from US Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush to King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Noor of Jordon and Pope John Paul II. The organization's access to global dignitaries and developing countries was noticed by corporate giants---like GM, Exxon, Halliburton and Searle---who gave millions of dollars to back the popular group.

Artistically cut with kitschy and never-before-seen archival footage, and the honest reflections of former members, SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS: The Up With People Story reveals what can happen when ideology, money and groupthink converge to co-opt youthful idealism.



Lee Storey

SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS is director Lee Storey's debut feature documentary. After learning that her husband was secretly a former member of Up With People, curiosity reigned and she was compelled to begin her journey into filmmaking. Lee received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Indian Studies from UCLA, and her law degree from U.C. Berkeley. She is an experienced attorney practicing law in Phoenix, Arizona.


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