Following Tuesday night’s New York premiere of Spike Lee’s Chicago gun violence film Chi-Raq —held hours after embattled Windy City mayor Rahm Emanuel fired police chief Garry McCarthy for his department’s role in the 2014 shooting death of unarmed black teenager Laquan McDonald — the director led stars Wesley Snipes, John Cusack, Nick Cannon, and Teyonah Parris, among others, on a “march in solidarity” with Chicago (via Variety).
Based on the satirical, but righteously angry, story of Lysistrata, a 2,400-year-old Aristophanes comedy about a woman who tries to end the Peloponnesian War by inspiring a sex strike, Chi-Raq transplants the tale to modern-day Chicago, where gun violence has turned the inner-city streets into a battlefield.
In Lee’s version of, Lysistrata is a beautiful black woman who denies her gang leader boyfriend “all rights of access or entry” until he and his rival agree to lay down their weapons. Before long, the local Englewood protest has sparked a worldwide crusade to end violence by denying men the one thing to which they’re naturally even more predisposed. It’s a method that Lee believes to be enduringly effective: “It was great in 411 B.C.,” the director told the crowd at the premiere. “It’ll work today.” Co-writer Kevin Willmott added: “It’s about guns, it’s about race, it’s about jobs. There’s nothing new about the problem.”
Following the screening, Lee handed out American flag pins and orange hats (the color chosen to reflect the vests that hunters wear in order to avoid getting shot), and led the crowd from the Ziegfeld Theater to Times Square. The filmmaker was joined by other notable supporters who don’t appear in Chi-Raq, including actor John Turturro and activist Al Sharpton.
Rev. Michael Pfleger, the Chicago priest who inspired Cusack’s character, urged the crowd to repeat an oath: “I make a pledge to stop violence in my home, on my block and in my city.” According to a Chicago Tribune report from earlier this year, more than 1,000 people had been shot in the city between January and the end of May.
Chi-Raq opens in limited release on December 4th.