The Speed Cinema Brings Fractured American Fable 'Sweet East' To The Big Screen

Sean Prince Williams' directorial debut, "Sweet East" will show at the Speed Cinema, Wednesday, Feb. 7

Feb 6, 2024 at 7:36 pm
Still from the film "Sweet East"
Still from the film "Sweet East" Photos provided by Speed Cinema
"Sweet East"
Wednesday, February 7
6 p.m. |   $12/$8 for Speed & Louisville Film Society members 
Speed Cinema, 2035 S. 3rd St. 

After years of shooting film as the cinematographer for Alex Ross Perry’s films ("The Color Wheel," "Her Smell"), and impressing audiences with the frantic underworld look of the Sadfie Brothers’ breakout hit "Good Time," Sean Prince Williams has made his directorial debut with the fractured American fable "The Sweet East." This fever dream travelogue film moves up and down the Eastern seaboard from Vermont to South Carolina. Lillian is our protagonist, happily separated from her schoolmates on a high school field trip to Washington, D.C. As she stumbles down the rabbit hole to this Wonderland, she meets characters from different factions of American society, all eager to declare and perform their personal form of activism in a dying empire. Lillian’s adventure is a surrealist journey, shot with natural light and a roving camera, with touches of animation and puppetry, titles cards, and acting and momentary gore early John Waters, all lending a non-reality to a film that is capturing the way the U.S. looks at the moment. 

"The Sweet East" is from Utopia Distribution, the company that brought us "We’re All Going to the World’s Fair" and "The Scary of the 61st," films with a similar anarchist flavor, all striving to hold up a mirror to truths polite society would rather not talk about, with a smirk and little desire to make things appetizing. The lack of decorum and hand holding in "The Sweet East" makes it a rude film, as it speeds along from one niche group to another, all these self-righteous circles of likeminded folks, who talk and talk and talk, making up the fabric of an America that is coming apart, but still with so much energy. 

Recently The New Yorker declared 2023 the Year of the Doll, citing "Barbie," "Poor Things,"and "Priscilla" as examples of narratives about cloistered girls and the journeys they take to become world-weary women. Add Lillian to that list of lovely, seeking heroines. Like Bella Baxter in "Poor Things," Lillian is on a road trip whose route is shaped by the people she meets, people whose desire to be listened to is paramount. She is a vessel absorbing the knowledge and opinions of these strangers, remixing her persona every time she swerves in a new direction.  From Antifa and Pizzagate, to racist hate groups, revisionist film directors, tabloid movie stars, militias obsessed with EDM, and Gibby Haynes talking about the Virgin Mary, in the end, this crash course in America's plurality is a pile of debris for Lillian the magpie to pluck from. 

"The Sweet East" is playing for one night only with a post-screening discussion with screenwriter Nick Pinkerton moderated by Lamplighter Film Union founder Nathan Viner. Nick Pinkerton is a film critic out of Cincinnati, based in Brooklyn, and this is his feature film writing debut. You can see his writings in Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Artforum, and in the Criterion Collection.  

Lamplighter Film Union is Louisville’s newest film appreciation group, screening hard-to-see film prints in odd spaces, all for the love of film. See what’s next at www.lamplighterfilmunion.com.