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Will Spike Lee's 'Chiraq' Depict a Sex Strike to End All Gang Wars?

By Mark Konkol | May 15, 2015 5:58am | Updated on May 15, 2015 1:31pm

AUBURN GRESHAM — Spike Lee came to Chicago Thursday to tell everyone who complained about the “so-called title” of his next film, "Chiraq" — and that means you, Ald. Will Burns — they’re going to “look stupid” when the film hits the big screen.

“People act like they've never seen my films, like I was grabbed off the streets. Everything I've done led up to this film,” the New York City filmmaker said, pointing out that people criticized arguably his best movie, “Do The Right Thing,” before its debut.  

“The same thing is going to happen in Chicago. They are going look stupid and end up on the wrong side of history,” Lee said.

Of course, Ald. Burns (4th) — who DNAinfo Chicago first reported wants Lee to change the movie’s title if he wants to collect a $3 million tax break — disagrees with Lee.

But we’ll get to that later.

First, lets talk about what Lee’s film, “Chiraq,” might be all about.

Sources say the movie — the title of which refers to the most dangerous parts of our town, merging Chicago and Iraq to form the nickname “Chiraq,” a name which gained popularity in the lyrics of Englewood gangster rappers including Chief Keef — will be a musical comedy inspired by the ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata."

The original play, written by Aristophanes, revolves around the title character’s push to persuade women that they could force their husbands and lovers to negotiate a peaceful end to the Peloponnesian War by refusing to pleasure them sexually.

Lee didn’t confirm the plot of his film and refused to answer any questions about it during his short press conference at St. Sabina Church on Thursday.

He did say, "A lot of things have been said about this film by people who know nothing about the film,” and pretty much left it at that.

But if “Chiraq” indeed aims to tackle the very serious matter of street violence in black inner city neighborhoods divided by violent rival gang factions, modernizing the 400 B.C. play about a sex strike that convinced warriors to reach a peace accord, it’s a safe bet that Lee isn’t making the film a lot of people thought he was making.

All it takes is a little imagination to see how the story of Lysistrata might be adapted into a modern, socially conscious tale that uses satire to inspire a peaceful solution to the persistent and seemingly unsolvable issue of street violence in poor black neighborhoods brought on by misogynistic warring gang factions that plagues American inner cities.

In Lysistrata, according to academic cheat sheets, the title character persuades the women of Greece to withhold sex, organizes a “chorus of women” to seize the Akropolis and take control of the country’s treasury. They solidify their oath by sacrificing a bottle of wine to the gods.

A “chorus of men” set fire to the Akropolis gate in a failed attempt to smoke out the ladies, who douse the flames and the men with jugs of water.

There’s a comedic and failed attempt to arrest Lysistrata, after which the police commissioner chastises the men of Athens for letting their women have too much freedom.

In an impassioned speech, Lysistrata argues against the war, saying women should have a say in the battle because they have sacrificed much — losing their husbands and sons to the carnage of war at such a pace that a husband was hard to find.

And that inspires a group of women to mockingly dress the police commissioner in ladies' clothes.

After a while, the sex strike starts to have serious effects. Warriors, desperate for their wives, become weakened by their “large burdens,” if you know what the ancient Greek playwright is saying.

In the end, peace is achieved, the war ends and the men and women of Greece share in a grand celebration. Wink, wink.

Frankly, an urban musical comedy with a “smoke out” and police chief dressed in women’s clothes that potentially ends with an orgy sounds more like a Tyler Perry movie than a Spike Lee joint to me. So we’ll have to wait and see.

Regardless, Lee made it clear that in “Chiraq” he’s looking to find truth in storytelling the way any artist would: Artists "hold a mirror up to what is happening in the world, and they do that with no fear. Because if you have fear, how are you going to tell the truth?”

Speaking to his supporters from a bully pulpit, Lee said, “Don’t go for 'Okey-doke.' Don't go for it. This is nothing about Chicago losing tourism. Come on, please. Come on. Stop with the rudy-poop. This film is not about Chicago losing business.”

When I called to ask Burns about all the “rudy-poop,” as Lee called it, the alderman said he doesn’t respond to those kind of “ad hominem” attacks.

But the South Side ward boss still wants Lee to change the “so-called” title of the film to something other than "Chiraq."

“I’ve never had an issue with the content of Mr. Lee’s film. I have an issue with the title. He wants to film in the 4th Ward, 5th Ward and 17th Ward. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m working hard to bring jobs, and when you brand a community as ‘Chiraq’ in a film, it makes it harder to bring in economic development,” Burns said.  

“It’s offensive to people who live in those neighborhoods, especially the ones who are trying to do the right thing — mow their lawns, raise their kids right and run block clubs — because they don’t see their communities as being 'Chiraq.'”

Besides, Burns said he really wants to know why a guy from New York picked Chicago as the setting for make a movie about black-on-black violence in America?

“What, they don’t shoot people in the Bronx? They’re not shooting in Brooklyn? Staten Island is perfectly safe, right?" Burns said.

“Just Chicago? Yeah, thanks, Spike.”

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