In the wake of the recent Paris bombings, I sat down with newly minted Academy Award winner Spike Lee, and the cast of his new film Chi-raq. Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris and John Cusack went on record to discuss the state of the country, the recent Paris attacks and how much tragedy we as a world can take. Shortly following the Paris bombings, Facebook and Twitter exploded with questions of how we could acknowledge one tragedy, Paris, while ignoring others, like Nigeria, and Syria.
Spike Lee, who's career spans 25 years and more then 30 films, the most notable of which includes "Malcolm X," "Do The Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever," pitched his new feature to multiple companies before Amazon Studios picked it up. Lee states: "My Co-Writer Kevin Willmott and I wrote the script and went to Sundance and everybody was saying no, no, no, no, no. Amazon said yes. I tell my students, 'All it takes is one yes. You get a bunch of mother f-ing no's, but all it takes is one yes.'"
And he would know. The director, whose "Chi-Raq" had a strong opening weekend in Chicago, boasts an impressive resume in Hollywood, that while critically acclaimed, has long gone un-awarded by industry insiders. Last month, the wrong was righted when Spike earned his first "Honorary Oscar" at the Governor's Awards. In his characteristic revolutionary and unapologetic fashion, Lee used his acceptance speech to speak out against injustice, and address diversity in Hollywood.
The film chronicles the current day gun violence of Chicago, which some have controversially come to refer to as Chi-Raq, prompting the filmmaker to adopt the title. Chi-Raq is a clear attempt to speak out on the tragedies of gun violence currently taking place in the city's urban communities. In it Teyonah Parris plays gang leader Nick Cannon's girl friend who calls for a sex fast from the women of the the community in an effort to end the violence plaguing their men. The film is described as: a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, and is set against a backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. It features music numbers reminiscent of School Daze and Shakespeare-esque dialogue that soon thankfully adopts a more modern tone.
Lee chose the subject matter because, "We gotta stop this madness." In my interview the director discussed the Chicago killings, his recent Oscar win, the Paris bombings in conjunction with other world tragedies and more. See my interview below and watch Chi-Raq in theaters now.