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Chi-Raq (/ʃˈræk/) is a 2015 American satirical musical drama film, directed and produced by Spike Lee and co-written by Lee and Kevin Willmott. Set in Chicago, the film focuses on the gang violence prevalent in neighborhoods on the city's south side, particularly the Englewood neighborhood.[4]

Chi-Raq
ChiRaqMoviePoster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Lee
Produced by Spike Lee
Screenplay by
Based on Lysistrata
by Aristophanes
Starring
Music by Terence Blanchard
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by
  • Ryan Denmark
  • Hye Mee Na
Production
companies
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
Release date
  • December 4, 2015 (2015-12-04) (United States)
Running time
127 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[2]
Box office $2.7 million[3]

The story is based on Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a Classical Greek comedy play in which women withhold sex from their husbands as punishment for fighting in the Peloponnesian War.[5] It stars Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson.

It was the first film to be produced by Amazon Studios, released in select theaters on December 4, 2015 and on their video on demand service Amazon Instant Video on December 29.[6]

Contents

PlotEdit

In Chicago's Southside, a war rages between two rival gangs: the Spartans, led by rapper/gang leader Demetrius nicknamed "Chi-Raq", and the Trojans, led by gang lord Cyclops. Demetrius's lover, Lysistrata, grows disillusioned after several outbursts of violence strike near her, including a shootout at Demetrius's concert, an arson attack at their home while the two are having sex, and a young girl being accidentally killed in a gang shooting. Lysistrata moves in after the fire with Miss Helen Worthy, a well-read non-violence advocate who suggests she research about Leymah Gbowee, who led a peace movement to stop Second Liberian Civil War and threatened a sex strike. Inspired by Worthy and Gbowee, Lysistrata organizes a meeting between herself, the Spartans' lovers, and the Trojans' lovers, where they agree to withhold sex from their men until the men agree to lay down arms.

The strike rapidly spreads across the city, with women of many neighborhoods and occupations joining in on the boycott. But despite its enormous membership, the Spartans and the Trojans refuse to cease their war. Following a funeral for Irene's young daughter killed in a shooting, Lysistrata speaks with the local preacher Fr. Corridan, who argues passionately against the American institutions that profit from the Southside's wars. Deciding that the problem is bigger than the gangs' resentment, Lysistrata and her women seduce their way into a military armory and capture it from its soldiers.

The takeover of the armory sparks a national crisis, with the military and the police surrounding the site, but barred from storming it by force as it was taken by merely 75 unarmed women who are not holding any prisoners. The women's actions also cause their boycott to become famous worldwide, with women from countries all over the world organizing their own sex strikes. The military tries to lure the women in the armory out by playing seductive music, but it fails after the women find the military's earplugs and the men themselves become unbearably sex-starved from the music.

After three months, Cyclops's and Demetrius's gangs begin to grow disillusioned, both from the absence of sex and also from having plenty of time to think over their fate in a gang. Demetrius remains too stubborn to give up the Spartans, but agrees to organize a meeting with Lysistrata after the boycott spreads to the mayor's wife and to the First Lady of the United States. The city arranges a deal: Demetrius and Lysistrata will meet each other in bed and whoever climaxes first loses and must agree to the other's terms. The deal is cut short, though, by Cyclops arriving to declare he and the Trojans are laying down their guns.

The following day, a truce is organized, with Lysistrata, the mayor of Chicago, and Cyclops signing a deal to end gun violence and build new hospitals and trauma centers. Demetrius refuses to sign, but is ultimately moved by Miss Worthy's testimony of the death of her own daughter confessed to by Demetrius's father. He admits that he was the one who killed Irene's daughter, and gives himself up for arrest.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

Rapper Kanye West was originally supposed to star in the film but dropped out, possibly due to scheduling conflicts.[10] On July 21, 2015, it was announced that La La Anthony had joined the cast of the film, as well as Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson.[11] Dave Chappelle appeared in the film as the owner of a strip club. This film saw Lee reuniting with Bassett, Jackson, and Snipes, having worked with all three actors on such earlier films as Mo Better Blues, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X.

Principal photography commenced in June 2015 and continued production through July.[12] The project hired many local actors and had an open casting call in Chicago on May 9, 2015.[13]

ControversiesEdit

The November film trailer was controversial.[14] Criticism included an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune by emergency physician Amy Ho, who argued (before the film's release) that Chicago deaths occurring nightly in local hospitals were used for the purpose of entertainment.[15] Critiques of a similar vein were published on Twitter and other social media sites.

The term "Chi-Raq" is a portmanteau of "Chicago" and "Iraq",[16] as well as an endonym commonly used by some Chicago residents to liken the area to a war zone due to its extremely-high crime rates. City residents and City Council members requested that Lee change the name of the film, and threatened to withhold tax credits that the filmmaker would receive from the city.[17] Lee later called Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel a "bully" and several Chicago aldermen "bootlickers" for their criticisms.[18]

The film's production received further negative press when it was discovered that its music supervisor, Thomas "DJ Slugo" Kendricks, was charging artists a submission fee in order to have their music considered for the soundtrack. These measures were taken to the film's production team and Kendricks was fired.[19]

ReleaseEdit

Chi-Raq was the first original film to be distributed by Amazon Studios[20] In addition Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate partnered with the company for a limited release in theaters on December 4, 2015, with the film premiering on Amazon Instant Video shortly after.[21] The first trailer for the film was released November 3, 2015.[22][23]

Box officeEdit

The film had a limited release into North American theaters on December 4, 2015. It grossed $1,250,224 from 305 theaters in its opening weekend,[24] including a $15,000+ per screen average on 22 screens in Chicago.[25]

ReceptionEdit

Chi-Raq received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has rating of 81%, based on 84 reviews, an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Chi-Raq is as urgently topical and satisfyingly ambitious as it is wildly uneven – and it contains some of Spike Lee's smartest, sharpest, and all-around entertaining late-period work."[26] Metacritic reports a score of 77 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[27]

Metacritic also found Chi-Raq to be tied with Steve Jobs as the 27th most acclaimed film of 2015, with five critics having named it the year's greatest and 18 others having ranked it in third place or below.[28]

AccoladesEdit

Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
2016 47th NAACP Image Awards[29] Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Teyonah Parris Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Angela Bassett Nominated
Jennifer Hudson Nominated

SoundtrackEdit

Chi-Raq: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various
Released December 4, 2015
Genre Soundtrack
Length 51:00
Label RCA Records

Chi-Raq: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, featuring music from the film, was released via digital download and physical formats on December 4, 2015 by RCA Records,[30]

  1. Nick Cannon – "Pray 4 My City"
  2. R. Kelly feat. Tink – "Put the Guns Down"
  3. Mali Music feat. Jhené Aiko – "Contradiction"
  4. Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers feat. Eryn Allen Kane & Sasha Go Hard – "Born in Chicago"
  5. Mali Music – "Sit Down for This"
  6. Sam Dew – "Desperately"
  7. Treasure Davis feat. Kid Ink – "Simple"
  8. Kymm Lewis – "I Want to Live"
  9. Nick Cannon – "My City"
  10. Kevon Carter – "WGDB"
  11. Sophia Byrd – "I See the Light"
  12. Cinque Cullar – "All Power"
  13. Jennifer Hudson – "I Run"[31]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Chi-Raq (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 21, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Review: 'Chi-Raq' Is The Year's Most Relevant Film". Forbes.com. 
  3. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2016. 
  4. ^ joeygelman1wgnam (2015-07-09). "Nina Metz: Englewood resident, "This is Chiraq" | WGN Radio - 720 AM". WGN Radio. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  5. ^ Smith, Bryan (22 October 2015). "Spike Lee Sounds Off on Chi-Raq, Gun Violence, and Rahm". Chicago. 
  6. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (December 30, 2015). "Amazon will make Chi-Raq free to Prime subscribers on February 4th". The Verge (online). Vox Media. Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Ratny, Ruth L (2015-09-28). "Spike Lee returns to Chi for CRC "Chiraq" recording | Chicago film, commercials, advertising, video, production, post, tech news from". ReelChicago.com. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  8. ^ http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/1148107/sunday-sitdown-michelle-mitchenor-chi-raqs-indigo-role-lifetime
  9. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (2015-07-21). "Spike Lee 'Chi-Raq' Amazon Film Casts La La Anthony". Deadline. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  10. ^ Beigelman, Victor (May 14, 2015). "Actually, Kanye West won't star in Spike Lee's Chiraq". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  11. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 21, 2015). "La La Anthony Signs On To Spike Lee's 'Chiraq'; 'Sleight' Sets Four". Deadline.com. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  12. ^ Chicago Tribune (June 2, 2015). "'Chiraq' begins filming - Chicago Tribune". chicagotribune.com. 
  13. ^ "Open Casting Call in Chicago for New Spike Lee Movie". Auditionsfree.com. 1 May 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Obaro, Tomi; Sullivan, Emmet (Nov 3, 2015). "Chicagoans Respond to Spike Lee's Chi-Raq Trailer". Chicago magazine. 
  15. ^ Ho, Amy (November 8, 2015). "'Chi-Raq' trades real lives in Chicago for cheap laughs". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (8 April 2015). "Amazon Studios Draws Spike Lee's Next Film - 'Chiraq.' Samuel L. Jackson, Kanye West, Common Eyed for Roles". Shadow and Act. IndieWire. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Spike Lee wants to name his film 'Chiraq'? Chicago can handle it". Chicago Tribune. 17 April 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  18. ^ Smith, Bryan (October 22, 2015). "Spike Lee Sounds Off on Chi-Raq, Gun Violence, and Rahm". Chicago magazine (December 2015). 
  19. ^ "Chicago's DJ Slugo Fired From Spike Lee Film For Pay to Play Scheme, Draws Attention to Industry-wide Problem - Thirty Roses". Thirty Roses. 
  20. ^ Jaafar, Ali (July 15, 2015). "Amazon Confirms Spike Lee's 'Chi-raq' To Be First Original Movie". Deadline.com. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  21. ^ Gettell, Oliver (October 29, 2015). "Spike Lee's Chi-Raq coming to theaters in December". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Chi-Raq Trailer". IMDb. 
  23. ^ Chitwood, Adam. "Chi-Raq Trailer: Spike Lee's Latest Stars Nick Cannon". Collider. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  24. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015) - Box Office Mojo". 
  25. ^ "'Krampus' Scores Strong Opening While 'Mockingjay' Takes First for Third Straight Week". 
  26. ^ "Chi-Raq (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 31, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Chi-Raq". Metacritic. Retrieved December 31, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Film Critic Top 10 Lists – Best Movies of 2015". Metacritic. Retrieved January 11, 2016. 
  29. ^ THR Staff (December 8, 2015). "'Creed,' 'Empire' Top NAACP Image Award Nominations; Full List". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 8, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Chi-Raq Soundtrack Details". FilmMusicReporter.com. November 13, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015. 
  31. ^ Trevor Smith (December 3, 2015). "R. Kelly, Jhene Aiko, Tink Appear On Spike Lee's Chi-Raq Soundtrack". HotNewHipHop. 

External linksEdit