Berlin: Spike Lee Sounds Off on Hollywood’s Diversity Problem, Gun Violence

Spike Lee Berlin Film Festival
AP Photo/Michael Sohn

BERLIN — Spike Lee and John Cusack offered their take on several issues at a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival ahead of the screening of “Chi-Raq,” a bold and vibrant movie dealing with gun violence in America.

A modern-day adaptation of Aristophanes’s ancient Greek play “Lysistrata,” the Amazon-backed movie centers on a group of women who organize against the ongoing violence in Chicago’s South Side.

The presser, which was also attended by Nick Cannon, drew several rounds of applause and laughter from the audiences. “You must look at what’s happening in America … with Donald Trump running for president … and think ‘What the f— is going on?’ ” quipped Lee.

Asked about the title of the film, which reportedly made Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unhappy, Lee said the term was coined by Chicago rappers to call out the extreme violence of some neighborhoods in the city.

Lee said comparing Chicago to a “war zone” is appropriate. “During the first month of this year, 53 people were shot and killed in Chicago. … Ninety-nine Americans die every day due to the gun violence — two-thirds is suicide,” Lee pointed out.

Speaking of Hollywood’s diversity problem, Lee said: “The Academy Awards are not the problem; the problem is the gatekeepers at the exec levels, studios, networks and cable TV who decide what movies we’re going to make and not make. And the majority of these men are white males — there’s no diversity there, and that’s reflected in the movies that get voted on at the Academy Awards.”

Lee said the diversity crisis needs to be confronted. “The Academy would not have made these changes if people had kept quiet,” he said.

Lee also addressed the criticism that erupted online when the movie’s trailer debuted in November and was slammed by some people for trivializing Chicago’s gun violence. The filmmaker said the movie was a satire rather than a comedy. “One of my favorite movies treats serious topics through satire,” said Lee, citing Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove.”

Coming out in the middle of the U.S. presidential race, the movie has been getting strong reviews from critics who noted its timeliness and relevancy in addressing the issue of gun violence head-on.

When asked who he was going to vote for, Cusack said he would not vote for anyone who’ll “legitimize murder to solve economic problems.”

“It depends if Bernie Sanders gets outspent by Hillary Clinton … and falls back into the DNC. If it is any Democrat against Donald Trump, I’ll have to vote for a Democrat,” said Cusack.

Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate debuted the movie on Dec. 4, followed by a release on Amazon Instant Video.

Lee previously discussed the difficulty he and co-writer Kevin Willmott faced when they went to the Sundance Film Festival with the script to try and raise financing. He said Amazon Studios was the only company that said yes to the project.

Cusack praised streaming services like Amazon for giving “a longer life to movies.” “Nowadays you can’t kill a film. People can see movies as long as they want on Amazon.”

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  1. mirgc says:

    It’s 99 now? Spike “make my own facts up as I go along” Lee has been drinking a bit too much of the gun-control koolaid.

  2. In Chicago over the weekend, there were 6 killed and 14 wounded. How many were NRA members? How many were killed by the Police? How many were law abiding gun owners?
    The answer is the same to every question. Zero
    America doesn’t have a Police problem. America doesn’t have a gun problem
    America has a Third World problem

  3. Jose Rojas says:

    What is that ornamental plate on the front of his kepi. I don’t think any unit has those on their hats in the Civil War.

  4. John Bristol says:

    I knew a teacher in junior high who hung himself. Is he a victim of “rope violence?”

  5. Ed says:

    Everytime I see Spike Lee getting attention I wonder what the ### is going on.

  6. mark says:

    The man is a has been…..this is the only other way he can get attention other than front row seats in a Knicks game.

  7. Typical black whine from a has-been racist director Nothing more

  8. Dorothy reynolds says:

    Spike lee is a proven racist and has been living off it as much as al sharp ton.

  9. Joe says:

    networks and cable TV who decide what movies we’re going to make and not make….

    A classic example of how idiots like Spike Lee do not understand business. They make the movies there research tells them they can make money from…If they thought they could make the most from movies with all black actors and with black plots. That’s all you would see.

  10. Mona Milkis says:

    BLACKS lives matter is BULL%$#@. When black people decide that we will no longer tolerate music that glorifies the most negative aspects of our people, when we decide to stop referring to ourselves as “TRIGGERS” BIoTCHES or HOES, when we decide to pull our damn pants up and respect ourselves, when we decide to stop allowing drug dealers to ruin our communities, when we decide to stop fighting and shooting each other, when we decide to stop robbing and stealing from each other, when we decide to stop ignoring the fact that many of our people shot and killed by police are criminals doing criminal stuff, when we all decide to find value in education, when we decide to start being fathers and mothers to the children we bring into this world, WHEN BLACK LIVES BEGIN TO MATTER MORE TO BLACK PEOPLE then maybe we can ask others to find value in us but as long as we refuse to address the stuff that we do to ourselves, we have no right to expect others to sympathize.#DROPSMIC

  11. Bill B. says:

    Has anyone seen Chi-Raq? It is awful & stupid. We can have peace if women stop putting out?! How ignorantly offensive can one get.

  12. Michael Anthony says:

    It’s not strictly a diversity issue. Yes, the top ranks need to be more diverse. BUT, if you’re going to OK a film with a big budget, you’re going to want it to be a hit. Spike Lee needs to think about that when making his films. I live in Chicago and the film he made is a farce about a very serious subject.

    • Sonny says:

      There is very little difference between satire and farce, and Spike said it was meant as satire. Even though this film’s intention was to shed light on the high rate of gun violence in Chicago, gun violence is everywhere in America and until we are ready to facedown the gun lobby and the NRA, it will continue. And don’t bother with ” people kill people “, if the gun was not easily available or in the hands of those who don’t respect life, it more than likely would not end in a deadly result.

      • GKN says:

        Clark, guns are being bought up more than ever before, according to everything I’ve read the last six months. Nor do the 13,000+ gun murders every year show any sign of decreasing – the vast majority due to domestic violence, not criminals, btw, as statisticians have been telling us (in vain) for years. If gun suicides add twice as many deaths as that, then 99 per day may be an underestimate. But who needs facts, when the Bruce Willis fantasies and rabid racism we always get treated to here are at play?

      • clark says:

        Sonny – Hard for you to believe, but guns are LESS available now then they ever have been….Gun violence is not going up it’s actually headed DOWN and has been for decades…..but don’t let facts interfere with your left wing narrative….

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