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What We Know So Far: A group of women in Chicago’s South Side rise up against the increasing amount of gun violence happening in their neighborhoods that is taking the lives of innocents.
The Trailer: (Official #1)
Dan: It’s time for another 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks! Spike Lee was one of my filmmaking idols growing up. His lesser known, Clockers, was my surprising introduction. The master has created several incredible features over the years, including Do the Right Thing (his best), Malcolm X (arguably, his most important), and He Got Game (a personal fav). His resume includes several genres; spanning from comedy, to Hollywood thriller (Inside Man – another with Denzel), to documentary (the heart-wrenching 4 Little Girls and When The Levees Broke). His best work blends the voice of the people with honest comedy and honest violence, always imbued with rich thematic undertones. Alas, I digress. I’m just setting the stage here. This is where I’m at when I start watching the Sneak Peek.
Fast forward 2 ½ minutes… Spike Lee’s next Joint is based on Greek literature?! Check out David’s commentary (below) for excellent analysis on this adaptation. This bold contemporization is exactly what we need. Lee has explored relationships before – with brutal honesty. Provocative earlier films like Girl 6 and Jungle Fever could act as part 1 and 2 of this trilogy… Chiraq being the third entry. Lee has brought back a lot of familiar cast-mates for this one, including Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes (as a hyper eye-patch wearing gang-banger… the kind who holds a stolen gun and delights with glee, “Okay, okay. Dirty poppers!”)
The story’s hero is Lysistrata, “a glorious nubian sister.” When guys see her walk down the street, they hilariously respond with an emphatic “Damn.” Lysistrata is gorgeous and confident, looking like Coffee as she struts down the street High Fiving passer-bys. Lee sets the stage right up front, letting us know what type of hero we have, before he gets into the serious issue of Chicago gun violence. The subject matter is enthralling. Imperative social issues are filtered through Lee’s vision. Add an impressive cast, and Chiraq is a highly anticipated drama that needs more hype behind it.
David: Based loosely on the Greek comedy Lysistrata (411 BCE) about a woman who convinced the women of Greece to stop performing any sexual favors for any man unless a peace was secured in the Peloponnesian War, here, Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) does the same in Chicago’s violent embattled South Side, rounding up women to halt the use of their bodies for sex until the guns are put down. Being a Spike Lee film, or rather Joint, it has already been the center of controversy, mostly over the movie’s title, which is a combination of Chicago and Iraq and is seen as derogatory towards both. Lee, in his inflammatory way, has openly criticized council members and other detractors and refused to alter the film’s name. That said, the trailer itself looks especially good, and a return to form for the always incendiary director, at least as far as raising issues and staying topical (there’s a brief moment when a Confederate Flag is seen being torn down). Samuel L. Jackson plays Dolmedes, narrating the events like a Greek Chorus and echoing his work as Mister Señor Love Daddy in Lee’s highly acclaimed Do The Right Thing. There is a rich comedic feel to the first half of this clip and has a great flare to it, with a number of familiar faces popping up, including Dave Chappelle. Of course, that all shifts dramatically at the midpoint as the music and tone shift abruptly and the real message of this tragedy begins to be revealed. With a sharp, satirical style and a theatrical vision, this looks to be a contender for something really special.
Dan Says: The captivating trailer begins and ends with “This is an emergency.” Lee emphasizes the message right up front. Lysistrata’s introduction continues the urgency. Fed up with all the lives lost in her community, she concocts a daring plan. She pitches it to her friends in hopes to save the neighbourhood. My Sneak Peek Moment is the flavourful dialogue. Lysistrata says, “Everybody here got a man bangin’ and slangin’, fightin’ for the flag, riskin’ that long zip of the cadaver bag.” I know Lee doesn’t get along well with Tarantino, but damn if he doesn’t sound just as tasty. I could eat up this dialogue all day long. Buffet me. Now. I’ve always been drawn to character stories that have a unique voice. Already, I get the feeling that we are in good hands. Experimenting so much, you never know what to expect from Mr. Mars Blackmon. For a second, let’s imagine this delicious dialogue exchange of plot information and laying down the story in a more basic and bland (re: typical) way: “Our men are dying for no good reason.” That same intent comes through, but Lee filters it into something beautiful – minus any on-the-nose Hollywood tears. More importantly, the dialogue feels real. Once the story turns towards more tragic moments, it will be more emotional because of the focus on realism and Lee’s personal investment in his characters.
David Says: The trailer absolutely demands repeated viewings and there are little treasure everywhere. I like the staredown between the eponymous Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon) and Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack) that is beautifully framed and photographed. It’s a powerful image. But my Sneak Peek Moment comes when Lysistrata is seen standing atop a military transport truck in front of a battalion of similarly dressed women “soldiers” who are taking a vow to suspend sexual entrance to their bodies, chanting a mantra that binds them as one. While it has a comedic tone, it is more so an incredibly emotional image as these women stand together, despite any other issues, to form an allegiance of peace. It’s striking and feels so satisfying. It’s one of those moments where you wish this could be the real truth and that something like this could really work. Controversy or not, this is film that’s message should resonant.