Magazine article New Internationalist

Chi-Raq

Magazine article New Internationalist

Chi-Raq

Article excerpt

Chi-Raq (127minutes)

directed and co-written by Spike Lee

Emotionally turbulent, intellectually demanding, sometimes physically overwhelming, this is a maelstrom of a feature. It blazons a political manifesto to stifle the distress and pain of African-American segregation in the US. No surprise, then, that it didn't get a single Oscar nomination.

The story loosely follows Lysistra, Aristophanes' 2,500-year-old comedy about a sex strike by Athenian women to end the Peloponnesian War. Lee's take is set in one of the US's most segregated cities, Chicago, sometimes known as Chi (pronounced Shy) Town, but after the Iraq War renamed Chi-Raq by locals. It tells parallel and connecting stories of rival gangs and their leaders : a mother whose young daughter is killed in crossfire between gangs; a gang leader's girlfriend who leads a peace campaign; her self-educated neighbour whose own daughter was killed in a shooting 20 years earlier.

While the original play uses a chorus to question and to comment, Lee's elaboration takes things to another level. He sometimes cuts into and out of the action with a garish-suited Samuel Jackson as commentator, jokester and seer. …

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