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February 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Spike Lee’s “rap musical” Chi-Raq, based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, opened to solid reviews but dismal domestic ticket sales last December. In its opening weekend, it earned just $1.2 million in 305 theaters. Two weeks later, it expanded to 1,576 theaters and grossed just $120,019 or an average of just $76 per theater — indicating that at many, if not most, screenings, no one was sitting in the theater. By the following weekend — Christmas weekend — it was showing in just 20 theaters. This week it made its overseas debut at the Berlin Film Festival — the Berlinale — out-of-competition, where, at a press screening, it was greeted with roaring applause. While the film itself is light and satirical, Lee told a news conference that his message was deadly serious. Chi-Raq, a rap term for Chicago, he intimated, is a bloodier battlefield than Iraq. In January, 2016, he noted, “53 people were shot and killed in Chicago.” (John Cusack, who co-stars in Lee’s film, noted that the February toll has already reached 90.) Lee added that with his film, he was hoping to bring “awareness to this war zone.” But Chicago, he implied, is merely a microcosm of America. “The United States of America is a very volatile country,” Lee remarked. “Every day, 99 Americans die due to gun violence.” Chi-Raq co-star Nick Cannon was not reluctant to put part of the blame on a violent pop culture, noting that in Chicago, “When they shoot someone it’s called scoring. It’s like a video game. The value of life is not what it used to be.”