Film series ends with Chi-Raq

Benjamin Edney – Staff Writer

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CLARION, Pa.- The Mary L. Seifert Series wrapped up the semester’s selection of films by showing Chi-Raq, a film by director Spike Lee. Audience members were forewarned, before the viewing, that the film was rated R for sexual content, nudity, violence and language, in part, to enforce a cultural message about gender.

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This film opened with the song “Pray 4 My City,” in which a rapper and character in the film, the leader of the Spartans gang, draws in the audience with verses about the conflict and death black communities experience in present day Chicago.

Dr. Ralph Leary’s pamphlet that was handed out states Chi-Raq is loosely based on the 400 B.C. Greek play Lysistrata. It was noted that both Lysistrata and Chi-Raq are similar in terms of utilizing satire to make a social and political critique.

In Greece, women faced with the 20-year Peloponnesian War took oaths to refrain from sexual relations with men in order to force peace treaties to be made. In Chi-Raq, the women of black communities and across the world use sexual restraint in the same manner.

Lucas Mennetti / The Clarion Call Students gather in the Suites on Main North theater to view the film Chi-Raq by director Spike Lee.  The picture is the final installment of the fall semester’s Mary L. Seifert Series
Lucas Mennetti / The Clarion Call
Students gather in the Suites on Main North theater to view the film Chi-Raq by director Spike Lee. The picture is the final installment of the fall semester’s Mary L. Seifert Series

The language is purposefully comedic and uncomfortable. Both plays present some feminist ideas with the limitation that ideas in Lysistrata came before feminist ideology. What is telling is that they share the women’s recognition that while they have not been invited to actually participate in war, they do have a stake in it and suffer the consequences of conflict.

Traesha Pritchard, a graduate student in communications, and Torron Mollett, a senior in political science, led a discussion after the showing with Leary.

Leary emphasized that one similarity between the film and play is that they are not necessarily about sex or the sex strike.

“They’re just vehicles to get audiences interested,” he said. “They’re more interested in having a stake in opposing war.”

Pritchard and Mollett expressed disdain for Lee’s creation.

“I didn’t perceive too well that the only power we [black women] had were our sexual desires,” said Pritchard as she deconstructed the film as having a love-hate relationship with it.

She conceded originally that she respected Lee as a prominent director who paved the way for many black directors but overall is unhappy with the motion picture’s portrayal of the black experience.

“I don’t really like the movie as well either,” Mollett underscored Pritchard’s statements. “It’s OK to make movies so we can see what’s going on, but I’m concerned with why [Lee] isn’t involved in making progressive movements, so movies like this don’t have to be made.”

Other students voiced the same concerns and critique of Chi-Raq as well. Many were critical because the acting just did not hit a chord with many students.

Overall, many attendees got the impression that Lee’s film was provocative in creating dialogue on many issues the black community faces but offers no solutions.

A student commented, “Spike Lee’s overall thesis was that we should ‘love one another,’ but in light of recent events, we’re more aware that loving one another is not enough.”

Mollett closed with a final question, “I agree and I am glad it talked about issues, we see the issues. What do we do from now? We watched the movie. What are you people going to do?”

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