'Chi-Raq' premiere held at Chicago Theatre

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The stars were out in downtown Chicago Sunday night for the world premiere of Spike Lee's latest film "Chi-Raq." While the film has drawn a lot of controversy over its depiction of Chicago and Sunday night, it got the red carpet treatment in the heart of the city.

Just hours before Chi-Raq's world premiere, a fresh sign of the violence plaguing this city when four people suffered serious injuries in a shooting in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood. It is the type of violence the movie that premiered Sunday night was supposed to highlight.

For months, Lee has said that before you judge the movie, you need to see it. Sunday night, hundreds of people had that chance. Most people viewing the movie were "regular" Chicagoans, many coming from the South Side.

On the red carpet for 'Chi-Raq' Premiere

Invited guests lined up outside the Chicago Theatre to view a movie with a title that has sparked controversy since Chicagoans first learned about it. There is no more guessing on what Chi-Raq is about or how this city comes off in the two-hour Spike Lee film.

"People want to see a lot of negativity and violence in a movie and that's not what you're going to see in this movie," said Yvette Robinson.

"It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it's a bunch of mood swings," said Shelby Moore.

Using humor and satire to highlight Chicago's gun violence, Chi-Raq is a modern day version of an ancient Greek comedy where women launch a sex strike as a way to get their men to stop the violence. It is a story line that doesn't sit well with Monica James. Holding a cardboard sign, James came to protest the film's premier.

"This movie represents those stereotypes that continue to perpetuate poverty in urban communities in minority households," she said.

Lee says violence in Chicago is reality. Sunday morning he and Chi-Raq's cast and crew were invited to St. Sabina's Sunday morning service.

"Chicago, you've got to deal with the truth, these numbers don't lie," Lee said.

They are numbers that Father Michael Pfleger was happy to share. The activist priest served as a consultant for the movie and was the inspiration for actor John Cusack's role in Chi-Raq.

"Over 400 in Chicago killed this year, over 2,300 shot since January," Fr. Pfleger said.

The title Chi-Raq is one that Lee borrowed from gang members who coined it. While the political debate over the title has come and gone, many hope the movie will have lasting positive effect

"I hope the movie will motivate more people to do something to help stop crime in the community," said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward).

One politician who was critical of the title and even asked Lee to change it, was Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Lee said the mayor was invited to Sunday night's premiere, but Emanuel is out of the country.

The movie opens nationwide on Dec. 4.
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