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A Must See

What You Need To Know Before Seeing “Chi-Raq”

Nearly 2,500 years ago Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote an anti-war comedy measuring the rage of war versus the power of sex.  One of his most popular and most anthologized pieces, Lysistrata has been the inspiration for hundreds of artistic works surrounding similar social themes.

In “Chi-Raq,” iconic Black director Spike Lee takes on a modernized, hip-hop fueled, political agenda laced re-telling of the classic play in what some are calling his cinematic “comeback.”  Before you head to the movies, let’s review a couple of things about the original work.

Lysistrata is set in 411 B.C. surrounding the epic Peloponnesian War, a feud which spanned over nearly three decades between Athens and Sparta.  Fed up with the destruction caused by the senseless violence, tactical leader Lysistrata convinces the women of both cities to invoke a sex strike, which will ultimately force the men to surrender.  Though the suggestion is met with some resistance at first, the women are steadfast in their resilience, the libidinous men are ultimately at the mercy of their women and their…members, and at the desperate sight of a naked woman, swiftly and distractedly negotiate a peace.

In “Chi-Raq” Juilliard graduate Teyonah Parris serves as a thick and fierce “Lysistrata” who gathers the women of two rival gangs in Chicago to promote a sex-strike until the excessive violence that is costing innocent lives ceases.

Much like Spike Lee’s highly controversial films of the 80’s and 90’s, much of Aristophanes’ works put a mirror to the ebbs and flaws of the community and called it entertainment.  His work was known for being topical with many of the highlighted characters being famous or local personalities the audience would be familiar with.  Spike employs the same technique in “Chi-Raq” using his prose-like platform to incorporate hot topic names like Eric Garner, Ferguson and Condoleezza Rice.

Flanked with a powerhouse cast “Chi-Raq” also includes the incomparable Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Wesley Snipes and an out-of-type Nick Cannon as Lysistrata’s gang leading boyfriend.  Spike Lee film staple Samuel L. Jackson serves as a one-man Greek chorus narrating the plot with rhymes and that intonation only Jackson can deliver.

First Lin, now Lee.  Who would’ve though setting history to hip-hop could be so entertaining?

Be sure to check out “Chi-Raq” when it hits theaters on Friday, Dec. 4.

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