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‘Chi-Raq’ Co-Screenwriter, Kevin Willmott, Talks the Use of Verse in the Film

'Chi-Raq' Co-Screenwriter, Kevin Willmott, Talks the Use of Verse in the Film

I assume you’re all aware that, in Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” all the characters speak in verse (watch the clip below for a sample). I’ve seen the film, and I wasn’t expecting that (I initially thought that it was going to be something like a musical, and there would be musical interludes during which characters would sing or rap/rhyme). So, at first, it took a little adjusting to, although it didn’t take very long. After all, it’s in keeping with the original work that the film is inspired by. Also, as co-writer Kevin Willmott notes in the press conference video below, speaking in verse is essentially something that black people have been doing for a very long time – in rap music notably, given the story “Chi-Raq” tells, as well as its setting and the audience director Spike Lee is hoping to reach (“speak to them in a manner they understand,” as the saying goes).

So check out the very brief clip below in which Willmott discusses the use of verse in the film, during a Chicago press conference that took place today – courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Amazon Studios has set the release date for Spike Lee’s much-discussed next joint, “Chi-Raq,” for December 4, 2015 in a theatrical release deal that involves both Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate (noteworthy as both have previously teamed up on prestige film fare).

The film’s cast includes rising star Teyonah Parris and multihyphenate and Nick Cannon, as well as lauded veterans like Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris, Wesley Snipes, and D.B. Sweeney. Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson also features.

“Chi-Raq” is a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes. After the murder of a child by a stray bullet, a group of women led by Lysistrata (played by Parris) organize against the on-going violence in Chicago’s Southside, creating a movement that challenges the nature of race, sex and violence in America and around the world.

Spike Lee directed the film from a screenplay he co-wrote with Kevin Willmott (writer and director of the woefully underseen 2004 mockumentary, “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America”) – an effort to shed light on the very serious, but often overlooked issue of violence in inner city Chicago.

First, check out a clip from the film featuring Teyonah Parris, Nick Cannon, Michelle Mitchenor and Wesley Snipes for a sample of the characters speaking in verse; and underneath, watch Willmott talk about that key aspect of the film:

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