Yesha Callahan

Open Thread: Have You Seen Chi-Raq? What Are Your Thoughts About the Film?

8539888-13526235Spike Lee’s newest film Chi-Raq has drawn a lot of criticism as well as praise. Just take a look at a few of the reviews below:

Urgent, surreal, furious, funny and wildly messy, the movie sounds like an invitation to defeat, but it’s an improbable squeaker triumph that finds Mr. Lee doing some of his best work in years. Full review Manohla Dargis – New York Times

Some scenes are literal sermons, others are one-joke skits. And yet it’s hard not get at least a little energized by the whole thing. Full review – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky – A.V. Club

A sprawling, blistering state-of-the-union address that presents Chicagos South Side as a cesspool of black-on-black violence, gang warfare, gun worship and macho misogyny. Full review – Justin Chang – Variety

Now from these reviews, you’d think that Chi-Raq was the next best thing to kool-aid, but these reviews were also not written by black people.

Chance the Rapper, a native of Chicago, recently spoke out against the movie and Lee.

And of course Lee shot back:

“First of all, Chance the Rapper should say full disclosure: His father works for the mayor. He’s the chief of staff, whatever the title is. His father is the chief of staff. Show me any criticism, if you’re so concerned about Chicago, do your research, show me where he’s made a criticism about the mayor. I think your findings will be surprising. He’s not criticized the mayor. Why? His father works for the mayor,” Lee told show host Chris Hayes.

Everyone is going to have their opinion about the film. Some people even have these opinions without seeing it. Which I’m not exactly sure is fare. Chi-Raq may not be Lee’s best piece of work, but he’s open up conversation.

Clutchettes: Did you see Chi-Raq? What did you think of the film?

  1. December 11, 2015 - Reply

    I have not watched the entire film. I have seen the trailer and it has strengths and weaknesses. Its strengths is that it outlines the important issue of fighting gun violence and other issues in Chicago. It makes people aware that we have a serious problem with violence in Chicago that must end. The trailer has images of people protesting with signs, it shows funerals, and it shows the emotions of people who desire change. It has people who are born in Chicago in the film like Jennifer Hudson. Some of the weaknesses of the film is that it promotes many stereotypes about women and the title of the film is something that I don’t agree with. Chicago is not Iraq or Chi-raq. Chicago is Chicago. Chriaq to me is like a slur against Chicago. There are many progressive people in the South Side, the North Side, the West Side, and in other neighborhoods of Chicago too. Also, the film minimizes many of the economic issues in Chicago (or how the capitalist class has used policies like gentrification, payday loans, school closures, etc. to exploit the people of Chicago. Also, there is the War on Drugs that has harmed many people) and the other social movements in Chicago that are fighting for education and fighting against poverty. The film should have touched on the epidemic of police brutality in a more in depth way too.

    Films will be critiqued. That’s the way it is. The soundtrack of the film is very emotional and has numerous talented artists in it. Chicago is a city where a large part of black culture is located at (from the Harlem Renaissance to musicians like Curtis Mayfield, Chaka Khan, Miki Howard, Common, Lupe Fiasco, and I can go down the list). Chicago is the great Midwestern city that we love, so we want Chicago to prosper.

    We know the heroes from Chicago from Marva Collins to Rosie Simpson (who was part of the 1963 Chicago school boycott). DuSable was a man of black African descent who founded Chicago during the early 19th century. Prosperity including social justice in Chicago should exist beyond the Loop. It should exist everywhere in Chicago regardless of class, race, sex, or creed. We want racial justice. This is the Chicago that we’re fighting for.

    • December 11, 2015 - Reply

      @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

      It’s only a two hour movie…how could all the things you’ve pointed out POSSIBLY have been addressed in 2 short hours???

      I’m from Chicago and I have no problem with the name at all. The term ‘Chiraq’ was out there long before Mr.Lee got wind of it and decided to use it as his films title….and honestly the first time I heard the name it rang true with me as a great description of the state of Chicago right now.
      So is this honesly just an ‘airing of dirty laudry’ type of sentiment you’re expressing….and the popular thought that Spike has no right to tell a story based on Chi-town?

      • December 11, 2015 - Reply

        @pragmatic maxim

        Every human being has the right of the freedom of speech, so Spike Lee has the right to create his movie. Also, people have the right to agree and disagree with his movie. It has strengths and weakness in my view. People are definitely free to disagree with him and that’s fine. Me personally, I disagree with the title of “Chiraq” for many reasons. Chicago is not a type of Iraq. Chicago has a different cultural history than Iraq. We all agree that gun violence should be addressed.

        Art should be critiqued in many ways. If that isn’t the case, then we don’t live in a total progressive society. 2 hours is not very short. A Power point presentation (in the span of 20 minutes) can address every concept I have mentioned in my previous response briefly). Also, my response never showed a total dismissal of everything in the movie. I have given my views (of strengths and weaknesses). . Also, people have the right to disagree with certain aspects of the film. That’s he freedom of speech as well.

        • December 12, 2015 - Reply

          @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

          This isn’t a power point presentation…it’s a narrative film that hopefully aims to tell an interesting and cohesive story with images a and dialogue. Your rationale is the simplistic view of someone who apparently has no idea of all it takes to bring that into existence

          • December 12, 2015 - Reply

            @pragmatic maxim

            We will have to agree to disagree on some issues involving the film. My rationale is not simplistic since I have covered many issues in analytical fashion. Also, I have mentioned an Eyes on the Prize example as well not just a Power Point presentation. Also, you have omitted the rest of my arguments which entails not a total dismissal of everything in the film. We should be free to have evaluations and critiques. This is what a progressive society encompasses of.

            Your comment of : “Your rationale is the simplistic view of someone who apparently has no idea of all it takes to bring that into existence” certainly is a cheap shot in my opinion (and you omit that people have the right to agree or disagree with the movie) and I have never disrespected you. Also, I certainly know plenty about the history, culture, and important issues related to my people. No human is immune from critique and that is a concept that anyone should realize. Therefore, I’m moving on.

            • December 12, 2015 - Reply

              @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

              Its quite unfortunate that you have interpreted my comment in an offensive manner because that certainly was not my attention. Maybe I take this subject to closely to heart for a number of reasons….one being that I am indeed from Chicago and in a short 3 month period before packing my bags and fleeing the city for what I think may be permanently, I was robbed at gunpoint by two assailants… as the more sadistic of the two demanded that I get down on my knees while he aimed his gun at my forehead; then barely 2 1/2 to 3 months later I saw a kid of 18 years of age gunned down as his two young assailants stood over him and riddled his body with bullets less that 50ft away from me on my commute to work as I walked toward the EL train at 9am. Lastly…I not only love films and consider Mr. Lee to be a genius at what he does…I, myself AM a filmmaker.

              • December 12, 2015 - Reply

                @pragmatic maxim

                First, it very sad for you to be a victim of of crime. No one should be a victim of crime. We express grew sympathy and empathy towards and victim of crime including their families plus friends. I have made it very clear that film has the strength of exposing the important issue of crime in Chicago. The issues of violence, police brutality, poverty, etc should be addressed. You have the right to express your views just like I have the right to express mine. I never questioned Spike Lee’s genius or accomplishments. He made an excellent legacy. I just view the film as having strengths and weaknesses. This is part of my free speech. Being a filmmaker is a great occupation and I wish you more success in your endeavor. My views on the film remain the same. I do wish the best for you.

                Goodnight.

                • December 12, 2015 - Reply

                  @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

                  Wasn’t looking for a pity party…nor should the second part of my statement be taken as me bragging. The point of it all was just to say that I am indeed well versed in the subject at hand from a few viewpoints. But I must concede….everyone IS entitled to his or her own opinion. No matter HOW narrow and misinformed, lol

                  • December 12, 2015 - Reply

                    @pragmatic maxim

                    My views are not narrow and they are not misinformed. We will agree to disagree.

              • December 12, 2015 - Reply

                @pragmatic maxim

                I feel for you I hope you are getting help for your psyche. I can’t imagine not having some PTS from those horrible experiences.

                • December 12, 2015 - Reply

                  @Mary Burrell

                  It fucked me up, no doubt. Before those incidents I was fearless. I had the mentality that these are all my people…no matter what socioeconomic background….and as long as I carried love in my heart and respect for the next man I was fine; truth recognizes truth and real recognizes real. Not that I ever went looking for shit…but again, I felt comfortable in any neighborhood and around anybody. Shiiid back in the day before they got rid of all the projects in Chi I used to feel totally comfortable walking into the Robert Taylor projects on 50th and State buying dime bags of weed. Big ol’ sacks too.
                  That all changed after those incidents …and surprisingly I was affected much more deeply seeing dude gunned down like that than I was after being in my knees with a glock to my head begging for my life. Until recently I couldn’t talk about …or even think about really….the horrific sight of this life being so coldly taken away right before my eyes without breaking down.

                  But PTS??….who has time for PTS? Life keeps moving, unless…..

                  • December 12, 2015 - Reply

                    @pragmatic maxim

                    Stay strong. You say you are a filmmaker perhaps you can use that experience horrific as it was in your art of filmmaking. Peace and Blessings.

                    • December 12, 2015 - Reply

                      @Mary Burrell

                      Of course….why else would artists have such fucked up lives? Lol

  2. December 11, 2015 - Reply

    Where has Chance The Rapper’s voice been in regards to the other injustices that have plagued our people and captured the public conversation in the last couple of years?
    He suddenly has so much to say when it comes to a Black filmmaker shining some light on this epidemic that is gun violence in Chicago?

    • December 13, 2015 - Reply

      @pragmatic maxim

      His father works for the mayor’s office, you do the math

      • December 13, 2015 - Reply

        @i mean

        Which in my opinion makes him pretty much the Taylor Swift of hip hop. Didn’t her daddy buy her a record contract too? At least she is smart enough not to say anything political

  3. December 12, 2015 - Reply

    SPOILER ALERT!
    I am a native of Chicago and loved the film. I thought it expressed some great points that I’ve often wondered myself. I loved the scene where the guy in the wheelchair asked Nick Cannon if he wanted to continue drinking lean and smoking weed every day. Wasn’t there more to life than just doing that? I loved when he talked about how he didn’t envision his life where he would even have to be in a wheelchair just to claim his gang. He was down for the gang but still had nothing to show for his life. It wasn’t worth it in the end. I thought the ending where the pastor in the church said there needed to be a trauma center on the South Side so that families of the victims had a place to heal was a good scene as well.

    If people actually saw the film, they would know that the whole abstaining from sex piece actually happened in real life. And one can do their own research. The women in Liberia took similar action to stop the Civil War there. (Mass Action for Peace) So it’s not like Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott randomly thought this up. (They may have, but I doubt it.) This idea will never happen because women will never come together in that way but it was a thought.

    The film was not supposed to be what people keep making it out to be. It doesn’t have all of the answers and never claimed to have them. As other people have said, it has started a much needed conversation. What are we as Black people gonna do to stop the gang violence and stupid Black on Black violence happening in our communities? Anything is better than constantly complaining about it and not making any changes. And that’s what I hate about a lot of people’s critiques. They’re complaining but offering no solutions.

    I don’t like the snippet of Justin Chang’s review (Variety). Chi-raq is kind of sort of depicting one aspect of the South Side of Chicago. Yes, Chicago is bad but it ain’t that bad. I loved growing up in Chicago and only recently left last year. The Bud Biliken parade, which is one of the largest African America parades in the country, runs through the South Side of Chicago. The Old School House Music Festival happens on the South Side of Chicago. The African Arts Festival happens on the South Side of Chicago. The Real Men Cook event happens on the South Side of Chicago. Positive things are happening here in the Black Community. Chi-raq is not all encompassing of what goes on, on the South Side and I don’t think it ever claimed to be that way.

    Just give things a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised.

    • December 12, 2015 - Reply

      @Beau Oh

      “Drinking Lean ” Is that that stuff they call “sizzurp”?

      • December 12, 2015 - Reply

        @Mary Burrell

        One in the same. Also see purp, dirty sprite, Barney blood.

        Don’t really know how poular that shit has become in Chicago though

        • December 13, 2015 - Reply

          @pragmatic maxim

          That must be the stuff Lil Wayne drinks and making him have seizures.

  4. December 12, 2015 - Reply

    I will probably view this on Netflix when it becomes available.

  5. December 12, 2015 - Reply

    I saw Chi-Raq last weekend with my husband and some friends. I did not like it.

    Using satire as a device to tell a story like this did not work for me. To me, Spike Lee could have done better to make a powerful statement about crime in our community. It made what I felt were just passing references to recent injustices against Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, etc at the hands of cops and that could have been better leveraged. The gang beef between the Spartans and Trojans felt outdated. I understand that this film was shot over a handful of weeks and, to me, it looked rushed and incomplete. I also felt it was misogynist.

    What I liked most was Angela Bassett’s performance, but she’s always incredible. I also appreciated the dialogue Chi-Raq inspired among us after the film ended. We were divided in our opinion, so we ended up talking at length about the myriad issues the film brought up including sex, gun violence and control, ‘snitching’, education, how Chi-Raq ranks among Spike’s other work, etc. I enjoyed that more than the film itself.

  6. December 13, 2015 - Reply

    As an actual non celebrity SouthWESTside Chicagoan let me say that we need something to talk about whats happening right now in the streets.
    Our teens and young adults are dying daily.
    We need more than empty promises and marches.
    THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!!! IT IS A WAR WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT. As a matter of fact there is a gang war happening ALONGSIDE the ChicagoPD not caring enough to stop it.
    I still have to watch the movie, but I realize that this film is a satire so Im not mad at Spike. He’s just keeping the subject in the spotlight…
    #RIPJosephGraves

  7. December 13, 2015 - Reply

    “No Peace No Piece?” “Nick Cannon?” No thanks.

  8. December 15, 2015 - Reply

    I’m glad Spike responded to Chance. Chicagoans are mad for one of two reasons: 1. Spike isn’t from Chicago so they feel he can’t tell their story or 2. Because this movie isn’t a Boyz n that hood or Menace to society. NOT every film tackling street violence has to be some hard coming of age story – satire is ok. Sex is powerful, women are powerful and yes women abstaining from sex has stopped civil wars in some 3rd world countries so it is possible. Anyways I’m planning to see the film in theatres this weekend lol.

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