Thursday, December 10, 2015

Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq" Movie (Reviews, Comments, & Official Trailer)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides reviews and comments about Spike Lee's 2015 movie Chi-Raq. The official trailer of that movie is also embedded in this post. A video interview in which Spike Lee discusses the movie Chi-Raq is also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural and sociological purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those involved in the "Chi-Raq" movie. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and the publisher of this video on YouTube.

These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.
1. From
"Chi-Raq[3] is a satirical musical drama film directed by Spike Lee and written by Lee and Kevin Willmott. Set in Chicago, the film is a satire that touches on the gang violence prevalent in some neighborhoods on the city's south side, particularly that of Englewood.[4] The film is based on Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a Classical Greek comedy play in which various women withhold physical affection from their husbands as punishment for fighting in war...

The term "Chi-Raq" is a portmanteau of "Chicago" and "Iraq",[14] as well as an endonym commonly used by South Side residents to liken the area to a war zone due to its extremely high crime rates. City residents and City Council members have requested that Lee change the name of the film, going so far as to threaten the tax credits that the filmmaker will receive from the city.[15] Lee later called Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel a "bully" and several Chicago aldermen "bootlickers" for their criticisms."...
Here's a definition of the term "portmanteau" from
"[definition #2: a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog)."

Here's a definition of the term "endonym" from
" endonym or autonym – from the Greek root words ἔνδον, éndon, "within" or αὐτο-, auto-, "self" and ὄνομα, ónoma, "name" – is given by members of a particular ethnolinguistic group to the group itself, its language or dialect, and/or its homeland or a specific place within it."
In the Spike Lee's interview found below as Video Example #2, that movie producer emphasizes that the term "Chi-Raq" was coined by Chicago rappers, and not by himself or anyone else associated with the Chi-Raq movie.

2. From Dec 3, 2015 Review: 'Chi-Raq' Is The Year's Most Relevant Film
By Mark Hughes ,
"With an estimated $15 million budget and a $3 million tax credit from the city of Chicago — despite political threats to withhold the credit due to local businesses and government worrying the title might give the city a bad reputation (as if unrelenting murder and rampant institutional racism weren’t accomplishing that all on their own) — the film’s path to profitability isn’t a very difficult one per se, but all depends on the strength of streaming purchases."

3. From by Dahleen Glanton•Contact Reporter
"[producer Spike] Lee spared us the discomfort of seeing residents living behind iron-clad doors and windows, afraid to go outside after dark. We didn't meet the children who risk their lives just by walking a block or two to school. We don't experience the emotional toll of young people being lured to the streets, ultimately giving in to a tug of war between good and evil. We don't see the more insidious costs of the violence — the broken families, the loss of hope and the defeatist attitude among youths that being born into Chiraq means they are destined to die young.

The film, based on the 411 B.C. Aristophanes comedy, "Lysistrata," in which Athenian women refuse to have sex with their warrior husbands until they halt the Peloponnesian War, offers no substantive ideas. The notion of women withholding sex from their gangbanging men until they make peace provides ample opportunities for comedy in the film.

I know it's satire. But can we really afford to laugh when our situation in Chicago is so dire that a 9-year-old boy can be lured into an alley and executed?

Still, we shouldn't condemn Lee for trying to make a difference in Chicago. The film does serve as a reminder to our elected officials, particularly aldermen on the South and West sides, that the lack of jobs in African-American communities, inadequate education and poverty contribute immensely to the violence. Politicians from Washington, Springfield and Chicago were well represented at the star-studded premiere.

The film also has a powerful message aimed directly at the gangbangers — young black men killing young black men is self-imposed genocide. That's a tough sell, though, to young people who know nothing about their history…
The message likely won't get to the people who most need to hear it.

Just before credits roll, Lee adds a message to the screen telling the gangbangers and the community to "Wake Up!"

Unfortunately, he's preaching the same old sermon to the choir."

4. From (The Hollywood Reporter)
"Provocatively using Aristophanes' ever-timely 2,426-year-old play "Lysistrata" as a way to address the ongoing plague of shootings on the South Side of Chicago, Spike Lee serves up an odd gumbo teeming with political activism, broad melodrama, verse dialogue, rap music, history lessons, comedic caricature, moral guidance and steamy sex (later withheld) in "Chi-Raq."...

Lysistrata, of course, hinges on one of dramatic literature's imperishable premises, in which the women of Athens undertake a sex strike as a way to persuade their men to end the Peloponnesian War.

In [producer Spike] Lee's film, the sassy and confrontational women concisely convey their demand in a simple slogan: No Peace No Piece (there's also an alternate, less printable version). It's easy to imagine how the boyz n the hood react to this idea, but it catches on, which frees Lee and his co-screenwriter Kevin Willmott to attach numerous affiliated and troublesome issues to their busy social agenda: black-on-black violence, gun control, bought politicians, numbness to violence, the commercial and moral gutting of neighborhoods, neglected vets and homeless and the untold other ills people live with in the shadows of a great city's imposing downtown...

The climax, which is simultaneously both dramatic and sexual, may have seemed conceptually provocative on paper, but onscreen hardly represents a credible response to the ultra-serious issues hashed out over the previous two hours. Music, reconciliation, moral lessons learned and remorse properly expressed are all well and good ways to create a (relatively) feel-good ending to a wrenching story. All the same, a yawning gap lingers between the film's resolutions to dramatic challenges and the dire real-life problems that remain beyond its reach.

As evidenced by the title of his most famous film, "Do the Right Thing," Lee has always been a moralist and a teacher, and here he has two messages: "Be a good man," as Bassett's wise woman tells the fellow who finally fesses up to the shooting, and "Wake Up!," as [actor Samuel L.] Jackson's sage street-corner entertainer ultimately instructs the audience."

Example #1: Chi-Raq Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris Movie HD

Movieclips Trailers, Published on Nov 4, 2015

Example #2: 'Chiraq' - Spike Lee attempts to explain what's wrong with Chicago - 'The Herd'

Colin Cowherd, Published on Nov 6, 2015

Spike Lee joins 'The Herd' to talk about his new movie and the serious issues facing Chicago.
A number of commenters disputed Spike Lee’s claim that Chicago is the mass murder capitol of the USA, writing that is not even in the top 10.

Many commenters in this discussion thread were critical of this movie, indicating that New Yorker Spike Lee doesn’t know or understand Chicago and indicating the film and its stars casted for the film) weren’t authentic. Nick Cannon's portraying a gang leader received special mention for inauthentic casting. Those comments appear to agree with the review excerpt given as #3 above.

Here are a few comments from that discussion thread [All of the comments are from November and December 2015]
timothy taylor
"The south side of Chicago not trying to see a movie about south Chicago satire slash playwright comedy."

"+timothy taylor As someone from the south side of Chicago I concur."

Willie Ikerd
"I'm from Chicago and I was around during the casting and the filming. I find it funny that he's basing it on the southside but majority of the filming was on the northside. I'm all for filming in Chicago but come on. I don't like that term and I don't like how Chicago is the murder capital in America. I've been to worse places that are worse than Chicago. Look at Detroit, Baltimore."

"+Willie Ikerd It's safer to film on the northside. That's Spike's decision, and it seems to say that."

"+maskedavenger777 No it's not. If anything he, cast and crew would have been treated extremely well.

This is an art film. Nothing more. Not a documentary."

timothy taylor
"I know young black people in South side west side Chicago will never like a movie where Nick cannon is playing a chicago gangster chiraq savage. They might as well got Anthony Anderson to play larry Hoover and steve harvey to play jeff fort. Spike is a old rich black man who has not lived in a black Urban area since the 80s. He simply out of touch. Chiraq movie is more like bamboozled. They wanted new jack city, boyz to hood not dangerous minds and some sissy Greek play."
"New Jack City" and "Boyz In The Hood" are African American movies about violence in African American communities.

Rivey"s World
"News flash Spike you suck now and need to do a serious movie about our side.... save that greek bulls--t* for a stage play.... Ignorant white people will think this movie is reality.... when its a joke!!!!!!"
*This word was fully spelled out in the comment.

This article provides information about current events in Chicago, Illinois that are related to the "Chi-Raq" movie:
From The Chicago police shooting of Laquan McDonald, explained, Updated by German Lopez on December 9, 2015
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Chicago on Wednesday after Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly apologized for the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, acknowledging that it "happened on my watch."

The protest comes after the US Department of Justice announced that it will investigate the Chicago Police Department. But protesters, who widely argue that the Emanuel administration tried to cover up a video of the shooting, said it's not enough — and demanded Emanuel resign. They chanted, "Whose city? Our city," "Who's got to go? Rahm's got to go," and "No more killer cops.".

The video is grisly: McDonald didn't appear to pose a threat to the people around him as he haphazardly ran down a Chicago street, allegedly carrying a knife but keeping his distance from the police cars parked around him. But a video released November 24, more than a year after the October 20, 2014, incident, shows a police officer nonetheless approaching McDonald from at least 10 feet away and firing 16 shots, even after the black 17-year-old fell to the ground.

The video was released on November 24, hours after Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced she would press first-degree murder charges against Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot and killed McDonald. But it took more than a year and a lengthy legal battle to get the video released, fostering suspicions that Chicago officials were engaging in a cover-up.

The release of the footage came after months of pressure by local activists and an independent journalist, Brandon Smith, who pushed in court to have the video released to the public. But the shooting has also drawn nationwide scrutiny, elevated by the Black Lives Matter movement that's protested racial disparities in police use of force following the shooting of Michael Brown  in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. It is just the latest example, then, of what many critics see as a systemic problem in the criminal justice system."...

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