The first trailer for Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq was released on Tuesday, and the teaser promoted the film’s humor and irreverence. The project, a modern update to Aristophones’ Greek comedy Lysistrata, focuses on a group of Chicago women who organize a sex strike as a means to stop the city’s rampant gun violence. But according to Lee, any critiques of his latest movie for being flippant with the real-life issue are incorrect.
“Some people are getting it twisted, and thinking this is a comedy. Chi-Raq is not a comedy. Chi-Raq is a satire. There’s a difference between humor and comedy,” Lee said while introducing the film’s new trailer, which is more serious in tone (see it below). “In no way, shape or form are we not respectful of the situation that’s happening in Chi-Raq. In no way, shape or form are we making light of the lives who have been murdered in this senseless violence. People, don’t get it twisted. This film is about serious business.”
Lee cited how often serious subjects are treated with a dose of humor in cinema. “There’s an old statement: ‘I have to laugh to keep from crying,'” Lee said. “I think that’s apropos with Chi-Raq.
Among those who criticized Lee and Chi-Raq after the film’s trailer debut was Chicago rapper Rhymefest. “I think it’s irresponsible,” he told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday. “The overwhelming majority of people on the South and West Side believe this is foolishness.” He later added, “I don’t believe that using sex as a tool or a weapon to end violence is any type of sustainable solution even within satire,” a reference to the film’s Lysistrata roots.
Controversy around Chi-Raq has existed for months; Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel even criticized Lee for the title back in April. Speaking about the film in October, however, Lee explained how Chi-Raq would toe the line between humor and drama.
“I’ve done it before. Do the Right Thing was serious as hell. It was so serious you can still show that film today — it’s still contemporary,” he told Chicago Magazine. “But Do the Right Thing was also funny as a motherf—er. Another example — one of my favorite films, one of my favorite filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove. What’s more serious than the planet’s destruction? But that movie was hilarious. There are many examples — music, plays, novels, movies — where humor has been injected into very serious subject matter.”
Chi-Raq will have its theatrical release on Dec. 4 before becoming available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Watch the more somber trailer below.