Spike Lee's Chi-Raq tackles gun violence with modern take on Lysistrata

Audacious American filmmaker Spike Lee makes a bold statement about gang life and a culture of gun worship that has ensnared young black men and turned Chicago's South Side into a war zone in his latest movie, Chi-Raq.

'Violence is as American as apple pie,' filmmaker tells CBC's Peter Mansbridge

Filmmaker Spike Lee, seen in Chicago in August 2015, said he believes art can have an impact and change the world. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Audacious American filmmaker Spike Lee makes a bold statement about gang life and a culture of gun worship that has ensnared young black men and turned Chicago's South Side into a war zone in his latest movie, Chi-Raq.

Watch Peter Mansbridge's interview with Spike Lee on The National on March 28 at 10 p.m. on CBC-TV, at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network or online at cbc.ca/thenational. The interview will also appear on Mansbridge One on One on CBC News Network on April 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The satirical musical drama draws inspiration from the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata by Aristophanes, about the title character's bold plan to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing women to withhold sex from Athen's men until peace is achieved. 

The topical Chi-Raq follows a similar premise, but revolves around a contemporary woman named Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) who is dating a rapper and gang leader (Nick Cannon) in a Chicago rocked by gang shootouts and the deaths of innocent bystanders. The film unspools in verse, complete with Samuel L. Jackson turning up as a one-man chorus.

Nick Cannon stars as the title character, a rapper and gang member, in Spike Lee's latest film Chi-Raq. (Parrish Lewis/Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios/Associated Press)

The star-studded cast also includes Angela Bassett, John Cusack, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson and Dave Chappelle.

Teyonah Parris portrays the central character of Lysistrata in Chi-Raq. (Parrish Lewis/Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios/Associated Press)

Lee is well known for his powerful, provocative and eye-opening oeuvre, including movies such as Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Inside Man, 25th Hour and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.

In the following clip, the Oscar-winning filmmaker talks with CBC's Peter Mansbridge about what he thinks can help stem the culture of gun worship in the U.S. today.

Spike Lee: Violence is as American as apple pie

8 years ago
Duration 1:15
The filmmaker, whose new film Chi-Raq updates an ancient tale by setting it against gang warfare and the culture of gun worship, talks about changes needed in the U.S. today.

"There always will be debate about whether art can change the world and put me on the side that raises their hand and says, 'Art can change the world,'" Lee said in a recent interview with the Canadian Press.

"Art can have an impact, I'm on that side. And I'll always be on that side."

Chi-raq is currently playing in Toronto and available on iTunes. It opens in Vancouver and Calgary on April 1.

With files from The Canadian Press