My Problems with Chiraq are…

Chi-Raq is a term coined by the people, so where were they? First Spike Lee film I did not enjoy this entire year for three reasons.

  • Satire does not work here. I’ve lived in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago’s West Side for my entire life. I can’t count on my fingers the number of people I knew who lost their lives to gun violence because I don’t have enough. Nothing about what’s happening in my city is humorous or funny. Being satirical undermines the severity of the problem that exist. In fact, I argue that if a white man directed this movie with this same exact script people would call him racist. Chicago is a WAR ZONE. Honestly, I can’t even say that straightforwardly because we all know that in reality it is worse. How can Spike Lee be satirical in this instance? It’s like attempting to create a satire about the Holocaust or 911 or Pearl Harbor. We are talking about the loss of thousands of lives. There’s no way a person could be satirical about this I am sorry. No disrespect to Spike Lee but he’s petty for this one. He’s not capturing true emotion. Too many parts of this movie made me want to laugh and the shit is not funny. I left home in the fall of 2014 to come to Amherst College and every single time I’ve returned home for a break someone in my neighborhood who I’ve known has been shot or killed. That hurts. At 18 years old I saw a man take his last breathe. That man was in his early twenties. Reflect that pain and suffering. Or just don’t name the shit Chiraq.
  • Lee was very inconsistent. He names the movie Chiraq, which is a name that was given to Chicago by south side drill rappers because “they” had more casualties than in the war in Iraq. The movies focus appeared to be about gang violence that needed to be stopped on Chicago’s south side but then he mentions Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. Neither of those men are victims of gang violence and neither of them died in Chicago. I don’t see the connection here.
  • Lee didn’t do his homework. Extreme misrepresentation of Chicago. Honestly, this movie looks like something that goes on everywhere. So why name the movie Chiraq? Why pay Nick Cannon to pose as a drill rapper if he’s not even from that or knows anything about that. Let America see what’s really going on. Use that money to put real savages on the screen. Not as actors but as examples. Let them tell their stories and get to know what’s really going on. If I had to guess, I would say not one person who lived in Chiraq had any significant role in creating this script. We don’t burn down houses in Chicago. That’s some old racist Ku Klux type of stuff. I just don’t understand where these ideas came from.

What makes this even more discomforting for me is that I just watched Barbershop: The Next Cut. If you want to put comedy on the screen while portraying the reality of “Chiraq” then take that approach. Make this more realistic. Show the people that there is hope. Offer a solution. Spike Lee movie ends with both main characters downfall. Lysistrata didn’t even get a peace treaty signed because Nick Cannon’s character didn’t sign it, but she still had sex with Nick Cannon’s character meaning “No Peace No Pussy” didn’t work. Nick Cannon goes to jail and becomes another statistic. Basically saying the solution you propose to solve the gang violence will not work and the men you try to influence to change will not change. If anything this movie is like a Shakespeare tragedy.

Chi-Raq | Father Michael

On another note, I was interested in reading more on the man Father Michael from Chi-Raq was based on. In case anyone else was curious, I’ll put up some of the content I looked at!

I felt the following New Yorker article was pretty comprehensive and painted a good picture of who exactly Father Michael Pfleger is and stands for. Though he is a strong anti-gun activist, he also fights for job and development projects in predominantly black areas in Chicago. His role in the neighborhoods he represents is very interesting, and he seems to be a very central figure in the push for gun control/economic reform in Chicago. He seems to be incredibly well received by his parishioners, and dedicated to his plight in rebuilding Chicago.

“We have an enormous opportunity to make some real changes in Chicago…The city needs an overhaul, not just the police.” He went on, “You drive through it, you see boarded-up homes, broken glass, closed-up businesses. And they’ll tell people, ‘Be hopeful!’ But you have to transform what you see. What do we do to make the South Side look like the North Side—and not just make it, demand it?”

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This clip of Father Michael addressing gun control issues, I found to be comparable to the character Michael Corridan in the film. I wanted to see if Father Pfleger has spoken about his portrayal in Chi-Raq, and found this image of Father Pfleger marching alongside Lee after the premiere in New York, so I’ll assume he was in favor of the character Father Micahel Corridan. 1106534_800x450