The Austin Chronicle

Horror Short Brings Supernatural Rage to Slavery's Story

Capital City Black Film Festival's "Swing Low"

By Charlie Neddo, August 31, 2018, Screens

"Hell can't hold the rage of a man with nothing left to lose." Those words open supernatural slavery horror "Swing Low," a story that came to scriptwriter Phil Elam when he was riding his bike in his hometown of Detroit. "It was like a download just came to me. The whole world just went away." The resulting script was compelling enough for Chicago-based film industry veteran Marvin Towns Jr. to come aboard as director, and gather a talented team of Detroit locals to bring this tale of revenge from the grave to life.

The supernatural terror takes place in the days leading up to the Civil War and follows two slave owners – Kincade (Andy Rathburg), and the malevolent Thompson (Curtis Lee Vest) – fighting over the ownership of one extraordinary slave named Samuel (Elam). The plot takes a turn after Samuel's murder, when Kincade takes advantage of an opportunity to let the dead man seek out grisly and poetic justice after death, made possible by blood, magical forces, and a set of braids.

The short has already had success on the festival circuit, including a best actor award for Elam's role as Samuel at the Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival in New York. Not that every response has been so positive. Elam said, "One film festival didn't want to show it because they thought it would start a riot."

Elam said the audience is invited to process the same feelings of revenge and justice Samuel grapples with; however, he said he believes it provides them hope by showing how, even when "Samuel is looking down at the valley of death [he] doesn't give in."

“Swing Low” screens at Capital City Black Film Festival with Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story and “Discharge” as part of Saturday Block 2, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2:30pm, Austin Convention Center Screen 4.

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