The Daily Northwestern

Filmmaker Spike Lee to speak on campus, discuss “Chi-Raq” after screening

Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Source: Spike Lee on Facebook

Source: Spike Lee on Facebook

Spike Lee

Madeline Fox, Campus Editor

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Filmmaker Spike Lee will speak on campus next month after a screening of his film, “Chi-Raq.”

Lee, whose other films include “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” will lead a discussion of his film at the free event on March 2 in Cahn Auditorium hosted by the political science department, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Office and the Contemporary Thought Speaker Series, a student committee that brings intellectuals across disciplines to campus to speak about their fields.

Lee’s film, “Chi-Raq,” made headlines last year for its controversial title, a nickname for Chicago that compares some of the city’s neighborhoods to war zones in Iraq. The film is an adaptation of “Lysistrata,” a Greek play about women starting a sex strike to force peace negotiations, set in modern-day Chicago.

CTSS co-chair Ben Zimmermann said the group wanted to bring Lee to campus because his films touch on important current issues.

“He’s generated really interesting debates around the relationship between art and public policy,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “This film (‘Chi-Raq’) specifically is so interesting because it’s generated buzz because of the issues it’s raised about gun violence in Chicago.”

Zimmermann and co-chair Sami Rose noted Lee’s involvement in recent debates about representation in the entertainment industry, particularly his critique about the lack of diversity in the Oscars nominees.

Rose said although the event will focus more on Lee’s recent film, his perspective on the representation of minorities in the media is one of the reasons the group wanted to bring Lee.

“He’s outspoken about many things in the entertainment industry regarding race and representation,” the Communication junior said. “He’s said a lot of things that I think are extremely important and especially integral to the entertainment industry today.”

Lee is known for exploring race relations and other political themes in his work, both through more contemporary depictions like “Chi-Raq” and historical depictions such as the Malcolm X biopic and “Miracle at St. Anna,” a film about four African American soldiers trapped in a Tuscan village during World War II.

Sara Monoson, chair of the political science department, said she became interested in bringing Lee to campus when she heard he was filming in the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood. Monoson said she remembered Lee’s films “Do The Right Thing” and “School Daze” sparking conversations about race and other issues when she was a graduate student. She said she anticipates bringing Lee to campus to talk about “Chi-Raq” will do the same for NU students.

“I hope students will take away from it a vehicle for being able to talk about some of the most difficult things we would like to be able to talk about — race, violence, the eroticization of violence in culture — not only in the particular communities that he highlights in the film but more generally.”

Students can pick up tickets to the event beginning at noon on Friday at the Norris Box Office with their WildCARD.

This story was updated at 9:45 p.m. with quotes from the CTSS co-chairs and Sara Monoson.

Twitter: @maddycfox