New Spike Lee ‘Chi-raq’ Movie Is a Form of Cinematic Resistance

by November 13, 2015

A trailer for director Spike Lee’s latest film “Chi-raq” has been met with praise and criticism. The movie, a modern adaptation of the ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata”, focuses on gun violence in present day Chicago and the women who decide to withhold sex from their partners in an effort to stop the bloodshed.

Samantha Sheppard, assistant professor in cinema and media studies in Cornell University’s Department of Performing and Media Arts, is an expert in African-American media and black cultural production and production cultures. Sheppard champions the potential Spike Lee’s film will have in showing the personal and communal effects of living in a neighborhood that mainstream media only depicts as a war zone.

Sheppard says: “Spike Lee’s cinematic worlds fuse aesthetic and politics. Like many black independent filmmakers, Lee’s film can be viewed as a form of cinematic resistance.

“The film’s title, narrative, style, and aesthetics are part of the African-American filmmaking tradition, including – for example – the use of comedy and direct address to raise political consciousness, promote social change, and link the conditions of local black life to global struggles.

“American media has already promoted and profited from an identity of the South Side of Chicago as a war zone to justify police escalation, surveillance as well as increased incarceration. In this context, Lee’s film has the potential to consider the personal, communal, institutional, and psychological effects of living in such a place.

“While the film’s treatment of the subject matter, particularly its representation of black women’s sexuality—something Lee has struggled with throughout his films—cannot be known until the film is released, we can champion the director for his commentary on the interconnections between race, gender, class, and nation in contemporary American cinema.” •

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