Necessary viewing

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks

Karina Kosmala, Arts and Entertainment Editor

[“November 11th, 2015,”9 wounded in city shootings.” “November 9th, 2015, “1 dead, 2 injured in separate shootings,” “November 8th, “14-Year-Old Fatally Shot While Walking in Englewood, Police say.”]

Living near Chicago, we hear each day news of someone shot. It’s tragic but not unusual. The “norm” is hearing people advise others to  avoid the certain parts of the city.. But we shouldn’t ignore these neighborhoods or the ongoing issue of gun violence. Spike Lee’s new film, Chi-raq, has the potential to bring the public’s attention to the the gun violence that currently dominates our city.

Chi-raq, starring Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson, and others, presents a parallel between the Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes. In both women take a stand against the violence of their community. In the play, women demanded a peace agreement to end the Peloponnesian War. In order to force the men to peace, the women suppress any sex. In the movie, gun violence becomes the equivalency to the the Peloponnesian War, and the main focus of the women is stopping gun violence led by a woman names “Lysistrata.”

But Lee’s choice in title started the film with the wrong attention.The movie’s goal was to push against the struggles we hear everyday, but the title stirred the controversy, with residents worried the movie will bring a negative opinion of Chicago.

The title “Chi-raq” combines the words Chicago and Iraq in order to compare the situation in Chicago to the “warzone,” in Iraq (according to Anthony Mosely, director of plays on the “Roots of Violence”). The title is agreeably a little exaggerated since you can’t compare Chicago to Iraq

Chicago and Iraq, don’t compare statistically, with Iraq having 17,049 people shot versus Chicago’s 2,847 in 2014; therefore, considering Chicago a “warzone” like Iraq is hyperbolic.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman William Burns 4th, Chicago city council member, were worried. Burns considers the movie as a “project that could ultimately harm the city,” which led him to the decision of revoking tax credits, money,  the state gears toward movie production as a way to encourage filmmakers to film their movies in that particular location, form Lee. It cost the filmmaker $3 million.

Burns said, “To create a living wage, jobs and hope…you have to get folks to invest for the communities and so, would you want to risk your capital, take out debt to build something in a neighborhood called Chiraq?”

But here’s the better questions: “What wouldn’t we risk to attempt change in Chicago? Isn’t a ‘negative opinion’ worth people actually paying attention?”.

This movie won’t plant a thought in the eyes of tourists. They already see what is currently going on in Chicago.  Chi-raq will feature humor because it is satire, but it is taking issue with a serious matter.This style points out the ironic attitude and actions of how the public is dealing with gun violence in order to spark the change. Spike Lee didn’t create these issues; “it’s a city of Chicago issue,” as Anthony Mosely says it, director of plays on the “Roots of Violence.”

Resisting this movie’s production, or not seeing it, is disregarding gun violence as an issue. Worse, it’s accepting that the current level of violence is the norm.