Movie Reviews: Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote




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Samantha Ofole-Prince

A Morality Tale with a Menacing Message

"Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote" churns with furious energy as it plunges into the story of redemption. Gritty and urgently involved with its characters, it announces a new director of great gifts and passions: David C. Snyder. 

Based on the book by Stella Hall, "Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote" follows a young woman who sets out to avenge the death of her best friend after she is brutally murdered. For Snyder, it was the perfect project to bring to the big screen.

“One of the major decisions for us to do the film was brand recognition,” shares the director and editor. “Stella had already built up such a following with her novels in the city of Cleveland, so we felt that the movie is going to sell itself because of the groundwork she had already laid with her books.”

An engaging movie with a decent twist, Snyder brings urban life to the movie screens without simplifying, preaching or pandering.  It’s told from the perspective of Chariote Lowe (Phillia Thomas), a young girl who is sucked into the criminal underworld after she witnesses the cold blooded murder of her best friend Shannon.

“It’s a morality tale,” Snyder continues.  “And the moral is pretty classic -- bad things happen to bad people,” adds the director who released his first feature “The Quiet Arrangement” in 2009.

Filmed in Cleveland, with the exception of a few scenes in Euclid and University Heights, "Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote" marks the 3rd feature film for Snyder, who has built a successful career directing Public Enemy’s music videos.

“I have been making short films for years, and that is how I got into all of this,” he says. “When we were kids, my parents bought us a video camera and luckily for me people saw the shorts and music videos and I was able to move into that professionally.”

Shot in 23 days, it’s Snyder’s years of directing experience which gave him a command of technique--and, he says, trained him to work quickly, to size up a shot and get it, and move on.

“You are always trying to get it right. However, when you are working in low budget/no budget films you have to work quickly. Speed dictates that you can’t get an extra take, so it’s a balancing act.”

A coming of age story, the gritty underbelly of Cleveland’s ethnically divided criminal world is exposed as the film expertly contrasts the brutal realities of inner city street life with the struggles of maintaining a family, all from the perspective of a young, Black woman.

Yet the film is not all grim and violent. An official selection of Cleveland’s 2013 Urban Film Festival, it’s an emotionally charged drama that’s bleak and brilliant with a disturbingly dramatic ending.

“We made this movie because it’s such a specific niche,” Snyder adds. “You have to do something that will stand out. Stella is writing a second book so maybe down the road there may be another ‘Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote.”

“Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote” is available on DVD @

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