Amazon Studios’ first original movie release, Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” is officially hitting theaters December 4, via Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate. But the first trailer (see below), as Shadow and Act reports, drew criticism in some quarters from those who claim the director’s adaptation of “Lysistrata” trivializes the violence that continues to plague Chicago. (Not knowing Aristophanes’ anti-war play could surely lead to some misunderstandings.)
Now, Lee is out with a second trailer, which he prefaces by saying, “‘Chi-Raq’ is not a comedy. ‘Chi-Raq’ is a satire… In no way, shape, or form are we not respectful of the situation that is happening in ‘Chi-Raq.'” As with “Do the Right Thing” and “Bamboozled,” Lee’s latest is almost sure to be divisive, though this is, notably, also the vein in which the filmmaker has produced much of his most lasting and essential works.
The film will be on Amazon Instant Video within a month of its release, marking a different, more theater-friendly model from Netflix’s recent day-and-date opening of “Beasts of No Nation” via Bleecker Street, which predictably yielded few folks in national Landmark theaters. While it’s expensive to open a movie in December at the height of the crowded award season, Amazon is following the filmmaker’s lead. This way, “Chi-Raq” gets reviews and word-of-mouth buzz, plus Lee on the stump promoting Black Lives Matter, and accepting his honorary Oscar at the November 14 Governors Awards.
Lee responded in Chicago Magazine: “I’m not the bad guy, but that’s how he was trying to portray it. Do I have the guns? Am I the one pulling the trigger? To be honest, he’s a bully. My tactic with the mayor – any bully – is to come out swinging. I said, ‘Mayor, Your Honor, you’re gonna be on the wrong side of history.'”