Exclusive Interview: Spike Lee Explains Chiraq Controversy, His Oscar & The Importance of The Film
Spike Lee’s controversial film about the tragic mass of violence in Chicago, called Chiraq debuts this weekend. I had the pleasure of seeing the film a few weeks ago and sitting down with the award winning director and cast to discuss the movie, the weekend after he received an honorary Oscar for his body of work as a director. This was my second time sitting down with the legendary director and he never dissapoints!
The film starring Teyonnah Parris and Nick Cannon is a satire about a women who encourages other women to withhold sex from the men of Chicago, until they agree to stop the violence. While both Teyonnah and Nick give thoughtful performances along with John Cusack, Angela Bassset, Wesley Snipes and Samuel L Jackson, many people are upset that Spike chose to use satire (a form of comedy) to tell the story. There also has been uproar over the fact that Nick Cannon was chosen to portray the head of a notorious Chicago gang, when he is the farthest thing from a gansta. And the title Chiraq (Chicago and Iraq combined) is considered offensive to natives of Chicago.
CNikky’s Review: I will admit, that the fact that the film’s dialogue was all poetry and there was comedy and dance routines, put me off a bit. While, some of the supporting cast members acting left much to be desired, I did appreciate the performances by Teyonnah Parris, Nick Cannon, John Cusack and Angela Basset. The opening of the film with all of the statistics was quite shocking, powerful and sad. And the fact that Spike Lee bothered to do a film that brought attention to such an important and ignored subject is admirable. It’s worth it to see the film and form your own opinion. But, more importantly, see the film, start a conversation and make a difference.
Check out a few highlights from our conversation below:
Why did you chose to use Greek Theater to tell this story?
“Satire has been used as early as 411 BC when the play was written to deal with serious subject matters. I understand some people might have a problem with me using it to tell the story of a serious subject matter, thru satire, but that’s the artistic choice I made.”
Was there a particular scene you filmed, that you thought was extraordinary?
“The moral compass of this film, is the eulogy that John Cusack delivers. That scene is a mutha-f#cka! What Cusack did, that scene was like 16 or 17 minutes long. He kills that scene. And lays out everything. The way it’s written, even though it’s a eulogy for a seven year old girl who was murdered in a drive by. But, in that scene, it gives us a reason, why she’s in that coffin. Education, guns, poverty, you know? All these things contributed to, us being gathered here today, to bury this 7 year old.”
Spike also took the time to explain why the film is important, and why people shouldn’t be focused on the negative things people are saying about the film, rather than the message.
“I think that a lot of our people are focused on the wrong thing, as far as this film goes. The title, Nick Cannon’s not a gangsta, you know that stuff just petty. There’s a bigger thing, how are we gonna save lives. That’s the bigger picture.”
Chiraq hits theaters on Friday, December 4th! Be sure to support the film and let me know your thoughts!
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