As its title implies, Spike Lee’s latest film Chi-raq explores the devastation wrought by constant violence on the gang-plagued streets of Chicago. With its controversial title, heavy subject matter, and unique twist on the classic Greek comedy Lysistrata, Lee’s film is hoping to get some awards-season love.
But in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Lee says the motivation for making the film extends far beyond a possible Oscar win.
“It’s really not about awards. I’m going to save lives,” Lee told the magazine.
“There’s people being shot on the streets of Chicago daily. It’s not just Chicago, it’s happening in cities all over America. It’s happening in L.A., New York — what’s Baltimore called? Bodymore, Murderland. What’s Philadelphia called? Killadelphia. There’s a major part of this film that’s about guns in our country. What is it going to take for we as people, and supposedly the most civilized country on Earth, to stop this madness? The NRA is not bigger than the United States of America.”
When asked how out-of-control violence could be curbed, Lee said it comes down to “legislation.”
“How is it that somebody can go in our states, like Oregon, and buy — why is a store selling an assault weapon? You don’t even hunt with an assault weapon. Why are they being sold?” he explained.
In May, Lee got into a dust-up with Chicago officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, over the film’s title. Emanuel reportedly met with the director to voice his displeasure over the title’s connection between the violence on Chicago’s streets and the carnage of the Iraq war.
Lee defended the film’s title at a subsequent press conference, saying it was not an indictment of Chicago: “This is insane,” he said. “This is nothing to do about Chicago losing tourism. This is not about Chicago losing business.”
Amazon will release Chi-raq on December 4, making it the streaming service’s first foray into releasing original films. The service hopes to compete with rival Netflix, which released its first original movie Beasts of No Nation in October, and has plans to release more over the coming months.
“[Streaming services] are doing a lot,” Lee told THR. “I think studios are threatened. That’s a good thing. I also think there’s enough room for everybody out here. As a filmmaker, artist, the more places there are established that you [can] have your work seen, the better it is.”
Check out the new trailer for Chi-raq below: