×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

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.”

More Film

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Emmanuel Lubezki Discuss the

    Alfonso Cuarón Details 'Roma' Cinematography With 'Gravity' DP Emmanuel Lubezki

    As part of an overall push to bring Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to awards season voters, Netflix’s “‘Roma’ Experience'” played host to guild and Academy members Sunday in Hollywood. The all-day event featured panels focused on the film’s crafts and an audio-visual installation akin to the streamer’s FYSee initiative for Emmy contenders, featuring costumes and art [...]

  • IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for

    IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for ‘On The Job’ Franchise

    Filipino director Erik Matti is known for his eclectic body of work that includes “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.” His 2013 effort, “On The Job” travelled widely and won several awards including two at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for an SACD Prize at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Matti is at [...]

  • Joan Chen attends the season premiere

    Joan Chen Talks Diversity in Hollywood, Welcomes #MeToo

    Chinese-American actress, writer and director Joan Chen says that she was flattered when Time magazine described her as the “Elizabeth Taylor of China.” When asked at an in-conversation event in Singapore on Saturday whether she paved the way for Chinese actresses to follow in Hollywood, Chen said, “We never go to work because we want [...]

  • Kyzza Terrazas Joins Garcia Bernal, Diego

    Kyzza Terrazas Joins Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Launching their new production house, La Corriente de Golfo, last April, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna have tapped Mexican writer-director Kyzza Terrazas as the company’s head of development. The appointment will certainly help build the company appointing an old-rounder capable of overseeing and implementing development, writing and directing, and a longtime [...]

  • IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen

    IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen Talks Performing, Producing and Public Pressure

    Macao’s Actress in Focus is a woman who has trained as a boxer, likes British actors, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Irons, and is now setting out her stall as a producer. Yao Chen has built a career over 20 years thanks to TV shows including “My Own Swordsman,” and films including “If You Are [...]

  • Bradley Liew's 'Motel Acacia' Shoots After

    Cautionary Tale, 'Motel Acacia' Under Way After Four Years of Development

    Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants. Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because [...]

  • Jon M. ChuUnforgettable Gala, Inside, Los

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Honored at Unforgettable Awards: 'One Movie Every 25 Years is Just Not F—ing Enough'

    Fresh on the heels of its Golden Globe nomination, “Crazy Rich Asians” was the talk of the evening at Kore Asian Media’s 17th annual Unforgettable Awards. Saturday’s event, which celebrates Asian-American trailblazers and their achievements in the entertainment industry, honored a host of Asian actors, directors and influencers, including “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content