Spike Lee: Social Media Plays Big Role in Chicago’s Gun Violence (Watch)

13 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Snoop’ from ‘The Wire’ makes the jump to ‘Chi-Raq’.

When Felicia Pearson joined the cast of HBO’s “The Wire” in Season 3, she became yet another indelible character on the show, in large part because she was a woman operating in what was primarily a man’s game. In an exclusive interview, filmmaker Spike Lee discussed the continued controversy surrounding his upcoming film “Chi-Raq,” on today’s telecast of “Windy City Live.” The film, set for theatrical release Dec. 4, has received criticism over its title and more recently scenes in its trailer. “We’re trying to shed light on what’s happening here. … What we want to do with this film is ask people to be honest and stop putting their heads in the sand and act like it’s not happening.On November 11, film director Spike Lee told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he believes “social media is partly to blame” for the surge in “gun violence” and firearm-related homicides in Chicago. Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, Diplo, Damon Albarn, RZA, Nas, Erykah Badu, Common, 50 Cent and Aloe Blacc are among the more than 80 artists, producers and record executives interviewed for the five-part, 30-minute series two years in the making.

The production on the track is generic modern hip-hop, and lyrically, Cannon talks about the violence and death in his city, but never touches on anything specific. Co-billed as “The Re-Format of Music Culture,” Breaking Genres is executive-produced by Revolt head of news & programming Rahman Dukes. “The advent of technology and generational changes has created a mashup of culture and options that blur the lines between urban and indie, black and white,” says Revolt Vice Chairman Andre Harrell in a release announcing the series. “Now after all this time, we’re back to the beginning. Is it a hit or not?” -The original soundtrack for director/producer Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq will be released Dec. 4 when the Amazon Studios’ film opens nationwide. In addition to misrepresenting the city of Chicago, Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” film could very well fall victim to the same vagueness presented in Nick Cannon’s “Pray 4 My City.”

Lee said he visited with individuals who work in Chicago with Pfleger, and they told him “that social media is a major element of violence.” He said, “People post something on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and others respond to it — not by typing something on their phones but by [going] bang, bang, bang.” Lee said he is drawn to this because he “[cares] about human beings.” So he is looking at cause and effect not only in Chicago, but also in the Bronx, New Orleans, and Philadelphia, or “Killadelphia,” as Lee calls it. All these people talking smack? [Lee holds up a cell phone] You could make your own film.” “Something that really astounded me is one of major reasons kids get shot is social media. [Social media] drives much of the violence. No one wants to see a movie about an issue in their hometown being made fun, because there is nothing funny about seeing multiple homicides or hearing about them in the news every day. What people post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram can get you killed.” On the title, and why he did not change it even after Mayor Emanuel publicly expressed his displeasure with the title (Lee said he has not spoken to the mayor since): “We have to do something, because whatever they’ve been trying is not working. According to their website, only two of the planned eight episodes have been completed and it appears the series has had just one screening last spring.

However, people shaming the film based on the trailer ought to push past the initial emotions and have an open mind about this film and not judge a movie by its trailer. A modern day adaption of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata with Chicago’s violent Southside as its backdrop, Chi-Raq boasts a cast that includes Cannon, Hudson, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, John Cusack and Samuel L.

There have been reactions from people saying that he’s from New York, not Chicago, so he wouldn’t understand the lifestyle or culture of that city, and those people are probably right. From an early age Pearson has spent considerable time in Chicago visiting extended family (through her foster family), she explained earlier this week when we met at Studio 507 Hair Salon in the Morgan Park neighborhood, which is co-owned by her aunt Latania Allen. “Hey, Auntie!” Pearson said, a big smile on her face as she walked through the door with her girlfriend, whom she would only identify as J and who lives nearby in Matteson. “We got food for you,” Allen told her niece. “Seafood gumbo?” Pearson asked. “Of course!” came the reply.

They have been run by Democrats for decades, and gun control upon gun control has effectively made guns harder for law-abiding residents to get for self-defense, while leaving a vast supply of guns in the hands of gang members and street criminals. As Allen and the salon’s co-owner, LaTonya Banks, worked on clients, Pearson and I sat down to talk about “Chi-Raq,” with its larger-than-life satire and theatricality, and how that experience compared with working on a show like “The Wire,” which trafficked in realism.

It’s not just Chicago.” “I knew I would have to have an inroad, someone who’s well-respected [in the community], who could connect me with who I had to speak with [to research the film]. Lee has yet to sit down with journalists who have seen the movie (nor has it been screened for anyone yet), but he has been carefully doling out teases.

I’ve seen most of the Spike Lee joints and several of them (the most popular ones) are based out of New York, so I wasn’t thrilled about what I saw from the trailer. I was here months before we started shooting, meeting with people and getting information. … In the film, Father Pfleger is credited as spiritual adviser and consultant. I thought: “You can’t just come into my city thinking you know what goes on here and that you have the answers to the issues here.” But again — the reactions and emotions are all just based on a trailer. Among the film screenings, events and networking opportunities being slated is “A Conversation with Common.” The Academy Award winner (best original song for “Glory”) has three upcoming films: Barbershop 3, John Wick 2 and Suicide Squad.

And a second single from the soundtrack was released this week, Nick Cannon performing “Pray 4 My City,” which plays over the trailer and which you can listen to here. Even though the trailer looked like a comedy about women abstaining from sex to stop violence, similar to the trailer “Miami Tail,” the trailer for “Chiraq” is strategic enough to make someone at least consider watching the whole film.

For this, he called me and he said, “I think I got a role for you.” And I was like, “Come on, make it happen, Spike.” The role I’m playing (Dania) is like a tomboy-slash-tomgirl, you know? Q: In broad terms we know the movie’s storyline, wherein the women of Chicago go on a sex strike to stop the violence, so where does your character fit in? Whether or not this film changes anything, no one knows — but this film should get us to start thinking and talking and that is a step toward the solution. Q: The original play (the ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata” from 411 B.C. by Aristophanes) actually is a comedy, and it gets pretty ribald with double entendres and phallic jokes.

Come on, right? (In a storyline from the fifth season, the bodies of murder victims were being dumped by their killers in empty rowhouses.) When I’m out here on the streets, (Chicagoans) always show me love. If a man approaches another man in a disrespectful way, especially if they’re at a high level in the streets, they’re not going to listen to each other. A: They say it’s a comedy because of Nick Cannon (who early in his career starred in Nickelodeon sketch comedy show “All That” and MTV’s “Wild ‘n Out”).

A: No, I think as long as there’s a message, it’s OK. (She sits back, momentarily dispirited by the conversation.) Man, I don’t know — Spike can answer more questions than I can. Q: That might be what people were reacting to with the trailer — that it doesn’t look realistic, even though it was never meant to be a documentary in the first place. Q: When you were 14, at one of your lowest periods in your life, do you think if you saw a movie like “Chi-Raq” that it would have influenced how you thought about things or pushed you to make different choices?

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