Beyond the Boundaries of Fantasia: An ancient imagining of the future of leadership

Step Three: Critiqueing Reception as Leadership (3:00)

Since the beginning of the American invasion of Iraq, there have been more civilians killed in Chicago than US military killed in Iraq. This shocking statistic is the starting point for Spike Lee's 2015 film Chi-Raq, in which the black women of Chicago, led by one Lysistrata, go on a sex strike in order to end the city's pervasive gang warfare. In adapting Aristophanes' play to modern-day Chicago, Lee turns a story about imperialist warfare into once about a racially-driven civil conflict, all while keeping the main plot mechanism -- sex strike and the battle of the sexes -- intact. Overall, the movie was well-received as a fresh, thought-provoking take on race, gangs, gun violence, and sex in urban America. Yet the leadership of the city of Chicago, including mayor Rahm Emanuel, fought against the movie production and title, concerned that it would be bad for Chicago's image. Others felt that Lee was simply capitalizing on tragedy, and what's more, reducing the power of women to their vaginas. This interview with Spike Lee and his co-writer Kevin Willmont gives some insight into their writing process, why they chose the Lysistrata as the vessel for their tale, and why they added certain pieces.

As you watch, consider: what else do Lee and Willmont change in order to fit Aristophanes into his agenda? What artistic choices do they make to deepen or advertise the connection between his movie and the Greek original? Is it a moving reception of Lysistrata‚Äč? Is it a successful film? 

Chi-Raq is available for free with Amazon Prime.

Listening for Leadership

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