Chicago Violence

”Chi-Raq' Is Not a Comedy': Spike Lee Addresses ‘Chi-Raq' Trailer, Releases New Clips From Film

The first glimpse into Spike Lee's film "Chi-Raq" was revealed to the public earlier this week, but for anyone who thought the film would be a comedy, Lee has a message.

"The trailer was released and there are very humorous moments in the trailer," he said in a video message released Friday. "Now some people are going to twist it and say that 'Chi-Raq' is a comedy. 'Chi-Raq' is not a comedy. 'Chi-Raq' is a satire."

The trailer for "Chi-Raq," released Tuesday, begins with the sound of gunshots, and a narrator says, "Homicides in Chicago, Illinois, have surpassed the death toll of American Special Forces in Iraq." The statement is followed by the proclamation, "Welcome to Chi-Raq."

Lee's Friday announcement comes after some questioned the film's sensitivity to the violence issue plaguing the city.

Rapper, community activist and candidate for Alderman in 2011 Che “Rhymefest” Smith said he read the script, saw the trailer and doesn't approve.

“I would like to see Spike Lee number one, apologize to the city,” Smith said.

Admitting he is a fan of Lee, Smith said the movie is no way to address the serious topic of gun violence. According to Smith, Chiraq is only a catchy name.

“Spike did not do his homework in Chicago,” Smith said. “Spike came with a plan and implemented the plan as soon as he got to the city.”

"In no way shape or form are we not respectful of the situation that is happening in Chi-Raq," Lee said. "In no way shape or form are we making light of the lives that have been murdered with this senseless violence...Don’t get it twisted. This film is about serious business."

In addition to Lee's comments, the video message included new scenes from the film, aimed at highlighting the violence issue the film is centered on.

At point, a woman is heard in the film saying, "There was a time in the summer when it got hot your child could go outside and play and not get shot."

John Cusack also says in one scene, "We will not allow this self-inflicted genocide to continue."

CHI-RAQ Trailer from 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks on Vimeo.

The film is set to be released on Dec. 4 in select theaters, according to an Instagram post from Lee last week.

During the filming and the days leading up to the film's release, Lee offered few details about the plot or nature of the film. A May report from Screen Daily, however, claimed "Chiraq" would be a reimagined production of the ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata," a story where women withhold sexual privileges to try to stop the Peloponnesian War. Clips in the "Chiraq" trailer appear to confirm this report. 

The movie was filmed in Chicago over the summer with many Chicagoans standing in as extras. It features several stars, including Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack, who appears to be a priest and activist, according to a shot in the trailer.

"Chiraq" is a slang term some use to compare America's third largest city to a war zone because of its violent crime. Its use as the name of the film was criticized heavily by some politicians, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said it denigrates residents of Englewood and surrounding areas, where much of the movie was filmed.

Lee tried to quell the onslaught of criticism in May by telling Chicagoans to "see it first" before they offer negative comments.

"A lot of things have been said about this film, by people who know nothing about the film" Lee said in a past news conference. "A lot of people have opinions about the so-called title of the film. Again, they know nothing about the film." 

The film, released by Amazon Studios, is the first-ever Amazon Original Movie. The company said the movie could be Lee's "greatest, and definitely his boldest, film yet." 

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