Today, an amazing turnabout in independent film reviewing has me in a happy place.
Independent films are typically destined to either die on Youtube, or go all the way to the top in various distribution strategies, based on many different things from production, who you know, and we know the industry stories. However, tonight’s review is about a film that transcends the common expectations, due to the “Quality of ART” and brings a freshness to Cleveland, Ohio that only Hollywood films using our streets seem to bring. Sure, we have great local filmmakers across the board, and I have reviewed quite a few, along with other films from shore to shore of our great nation. I have even fell in love with quite a few of them. Let’s just say that as a filmmaker, myself, I have truly been humbled after watching this. I am inspired!
“Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote” is a modern day Bonnie & Clyde meets gangster movie, set in Cleveland, Ohio. The streets are the banks, and the bad guys play down-right dirty. While there is a love element, the love for carrying positions of power, and the loyalties that come with it are the true seduction. Normally, gangster films all seem the same, but this takes on a completely other angle, and doesn’t focus on the typical glam, but rather the motive and personal strengths it takes to be a part of things so dark and explosive. This film shows the “leader’s story”, kind of like you get when you watch “Scarface”. Better yet, this shows it from a female perspective, and an underlying power it carries. Due to the extremely commercial nature of the screening and potential plans, I won’t be getting into much more on the subject matter and theme, only focusing on production, some acting, and turnout of the premiere event.
This is a film by David C. Snyder, from Public Enemy fame. He wrote the screenplay based off the novel by Cleveland’s Own Stella Hall, directed, shot, and edited the film. There is nothing like being one with all elements of your craft. There were plenty more people who added to the entire production, but as usual, this isn’t about breaking down every component of this beautifully shot and edited masterpiece of what independent filmmaking should strive for. This is a HWIC Filmworks presents, with Cleveland Style Casting and Command Pictures. Executive Producer is John Delserone, with Producers Tina Hobbs and Deliska McGhee.
Before I get to the top 3 actors, like I usually do, let’s get into production. As an indie reviewer who prefers to look for the good in productions, because anyone can be a critic, I typically come off like an ass-kisser. In this film’s case, you won’t see my head. In most indie films, I navigate around production stumbling blocks that I too have encountered over the years, but in this case the opposite is true. Cinematically speaking, the shots and image quality are perfect, even more than many Hollywood shoots, simply because of the angles and techniques David has mastered. I kept saying “wow” to myself as each shot quickly showed something new, and never seemed to stop delivering. The editing seems flawless and caters to both story, actors’ strengths, and the film’s intended aesthetics. This is what indie film should do. There is a chance this goes beyond being an indie film in many respects. Finally, someone has broken free from limitation. I could seriously write many articles on what this film has done right. Industry stress is released. This “MOVIE” is my unlikely therapy within an almost thankless and life-straining decade of indie film.
Note: For those who think I’m heading down the path of non-objectivity, I don’t care what you think. You are reading this to read what I think. It is my column and I am speaking from the heart here.
Sound was solid, and the best I’ve encountered on an indie film. From the recording, foley, and narration, and let’s not forget music that never got in the way of anything…we should all hope to have our productions sound as clear. Even the many gun shots in the film sounded far better than most films you rent, even though Hollywood has use of Skywalker sound to keep one step ahead. As far as visual effects go, blood from gun shot wounds looked pretty real, although it seemed every victim had blood in their mouth. The gun fights were decisively fierce and beautifully executed, taking you on a journey with the main character. I got a lot of “Pulp Fiction” type vibes from time to time, yet I know that a lot comes from somewhere else, perhaps where QT got some of his styles, as well. I almost feel like there’s some influence from the movie “Dead Presidents”, but that could just be me. Lighting was perfect, even in many of the dark night scenes. The acting was very professional, as a whole. The list goes on and on.
Okay, enough about that. Let’s get involved on a few main characters. Forgive me for not listing all of them, but let’s get to it. Chariote Lowe, played by Phillia Thomas, is a college aimed girl who falls in love with the bad boy Ace, played by Hakeem Sharif. They are the dysfunctional duet you secretly cheer on. She starts off sweet, but is most definitely made of sterner stuff. He is your local up and coming gangster trying to live the life the way he wants to. Chariote’s mother Harriet, played by Melissa Thorne, has always been a prostitute, leaving Chariote’s raising up to Gram, played by Tami Swails. Phillia Thomas shows her acting dynamics through a transformation from girl to woman, while Thorne’s character had an equally tough position of playing a mother who is more of a daughter. Swails reminded me of the endearing actress portraying Martin Lawrence’s mother in “Nothing To Lose”, if you’ve ever watched that classic. I’ve got two words for Sharif’s acting… smooth and youthful. Public Enemy’s Chuck D, and Hollywood’s Tony King, make enjoyable appearances, as well.
I asked David Snyder for his take on the overall turnout of the premiere. David said, “The premiere went great. We think there was around 600 people that showed spread across 5 theaters at the Solon Digiplex theater. The cast walked the red carpet at around 7 pm. Also in attendance were members of 2013 rock and roll hall of fame inductees Public Enemy, including leader Chuck D who plays DJ Jonny Specials in the picture. Also in attendance was the author of the novel on which the film was based, Cleveland’s own Stella Hall, and legendary character actor Tony King (Sparkle, The Godfather, The Toy) who plays Sly in our film. Response to the film was enthusiastically positive. At the after party Chuck D surprised everyone with a brief impromptu performance.”
I don’t know about you, but that sounds fantastic, and after watching this film, I believe it is well-deserved. From story, cinematography, sound, and overall movie….David’s got it.