For the past month, political leaders from Chicago have been up in arms, so to speak, about Spike Lee's upcoming joint Chiraq. Considering very little is known about the plot of the film, the backlash is centered mostly around the film's title.
Now, for the first time, Lee is commenting about the controversy surrounding his latest project, which he calls a culmination of his 30-year career. "A lot of things have been said about this film by people who know nothing about the film," Lee said at a press conference on Thursday. "A lot of people have opinions about the so-called title of the film," he added. "So we thought it was appropriate that we say what the narrative is — the filmmakers, the people doing this — not people who are judging from afar and, again, don't know what the hell they're talking about."
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Lee said little about the narrative, but here's what we know so far: The movie is reportedly loosely based on the Greek comedy Lysistrata, about a group of women in ancient Greece who withhold sex from their men until they put an end to war. In Lee's version, the classic tale will be set in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, which has been plagued by gang violence.
Chicago native John Cusack will star in the film, as will Jennifer Hudson. Kanye West, however, will not, despite reports saying he will play a role. Through a spokesperson this week, West did say he was open to considering a collaboration on some music for the film.
"Everything I've done has led up to this film," Lee said at the press conference, wrapping up a passionate speech about how he was confident Chicago would embrace a "film of conscience" exploring some of its grave social problems. He compares Chiraq to one of his first — and equally controversial — films, Do the Right Thing. "Way way back when I made Do the Right Thing, there were people who said this film would cause riots all across America, that Black people were going to run amok.
"They wrote a whole bunch of things. But those people ended up being on the wrong side of history. And the same is going to happen in Chicago. They are going to look stupid and end up on the wrong side of history. We're here for peace. We have to stop this."
Watch Spike Lee sound off on so-called "Black films" in our interview with the director last year:
(Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival)
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