Filmmaker Spike Lee is defending his movie “Chi-Raq” against a backlash that arose after the first trailer was released.
“In no way, shape or form are we not respectful of the situation that is happening in Chi-Raq. In no way shape or form are we making light of the lives that have been murdered with this senseless violence,” Lee says in a lengthy video statement preceding a new trailer to the movie.
The first trailer highlighted some of the humor in the movie, Lee noted – but don’t jump to any conclusions.
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“Now some people are getting it twisted and thinking this is a comedy. Chi-Raq is not a comedy. Chi-Raq is a satire, and there is a difference between humor and comedy,” Lee says in a video emailed to media on Friday by one of his local supporters, Father Michael Pfleger of Saint Sabina Church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.
“Chi-Raq” features a modern take on the Greek comedic tale of Lysistrata, who gets the women of ancient Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and boyfriends as a way to end the Peloponnesian War. In “Chi-Raq,” some women in Chicago try the same approach.
The humor did not appeal to local rapper Rhymefest, also known as Cheland Smith, who Tweeted that Lee was exploiting poor people.
Lee did not mention Rhymefest but seemed determined to make his intentions clear.
“So, people, don’t get it twisted. Don’t get it twisted. This film is about serious business,” Lee adds. “There’s many films that we could look at [in] the history of American cinema that treated very serious subject matter and had humor in them.”
Pfleger said Lee sent the video interview and trailer to him on Thursday.
“My guess is it’s a response to the voices that were so ready to judge the film on the trailer. I think he listened to that,” Pfleger said, once again voicing support for the acclaimed director.
“Look at the other movies he’s done. He’s a serious director and I think when people see the movie people are going to understand,” Pfleger said, drawing a contrast to Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” — his 1989 film about racial tensions coming to a boiling point.
“You understand that there was laughter. There was tears. There was anger. All of that is in it and I think it’s the same thing with ‘Chi-Raq,'” Pfleger said.
The new trailer closes with area native John Cusack, apparently cast as a Pfleger-like minister, delivering an angry sermon: “You cannot murder our children,” Cusack’s character says. “We will not allow this self-inflicted genocide to continue.”
Pfleger on Friday said he can’t comment on whether Cusack is playing him. Cusack’s role is identified as Fr. Mike Corridan on IMDB.
But he did admit to spending plenty of time with Cusack as the actor researched his role.
“We spent a lot of time together,” Pfleger said. “And I think he did an excellent job.”
The clip in the latest trailer features Cusack preaching in St. Sabina.
“He’s singing and wearing my robe,” Pfleger said with a laugh.
In another scene, one of the movie’s stars, Angela Bassett, declares angrily: “I’ll be damned if another child bleeds.”
Lee’s film is slated to be released Dec. 4.