When he began principal shooting in Chicago in summer 2015, Spike Lee assured audiences that Chi-Raq would engage the issue of violence on Chicago's South Side with intention and purpose. Chicagoans were skeptical because of Lee's use of the portmanteau phrase, which had been the subject of much debate in the city, as the film's title. Written almost entirely in verse, Chi-Raq is an adaptation of classical Greek playwright Aristophanes's comedy Lysistrata that marks an extension of Lee's use of satire. Despite Lee's promises, he flails outside of his native Brooklyn. The film primarily adopts a didactic and reductionist view, blaming black Chicagoans for their own “self-inflicted genocide” and encouraging them to put their trust in the notoriously corrupt Chicago Police Department.
The Shadow Behind the Real: Spike Lee Does Chicago
Jade D. Petermon is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Black World Studies Department at Miami University. She is currently working on her book Hyper(in)visibility: Reading Race and Representation in the Neoliberal Era, which traces the visibility of radicalized subjectivities across several media platforms in the era of neoliberalism. She is a native Chicagoan.
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Jade D. Petermon; The Shadow Behind the Real: Spike Lee Does Chicago. Film Quarterly 1 December 2016; 70 (2): 30–37. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2016.70.2.30
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