40 Acres and a Mule

There are at least 80 movie theaters scattered across Chicago, but not a single one of them is located in Englewood, the very real neighborhood at the center of Spike Lee's Chi-Raq.

Chi-Raq is Lee's retelling of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, the story of a Greek woman who plots to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing the women of Athens to go on a citywide sex strike. The film replaces ancient Greece with modern-day Chicago and the two warring Greek states are reimagined as two gangs.


The Spartans, led by local rapper Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon,) and the Trojans, led by the one-eyed Cyclops (Wesley Snipes) do battle with one another on the streets of Englewood while Lysistrata (Teyonah Parrish) fights to spread her message: "No piece, no pussy." The film's title borrows its controversial title from the monicker the city of Chicago has gained in light of a record-breaking number of shootings and gun-related deaths.

Lee's movie has drawn praise and criticism alike for being one of the director's most stringing piece of agitprop in years. Though many critics are praising it for being an artful, raw addition to the long line of black productions of Lysistrata, many Chicagoans themselves have expressed dismay and outrage that Lee would superimpose the satirist play onto real-world violence that plagues Chicago.


Seemingly left out of this conversation, however, are the actual residents of Englewood, which Chi-Raq substitutes for Lysistrata's Athens. Put frankly: people living in Englewood can't actually see the film in their neighborhood because there aren't any theaters for them to go to. Considering that similar problems plagued the release of Straight Outta Compton, it would appear that history, unfortunately, is repeating itself.


As Vocativ points out, the decline of manufacturing jobs coupled with widespread white flight drained Englewood of much of its economic resources and residents that would attract businesses to set up shop. The result, in terms of viable movie theaters, is a virtual desert for movie goers.

Englewood (highlighted in red) is flanked by movie theaters in nearby Hyde Park, while it has no cinemas of its own.

While access to movie theaters isn't nearly as important as easy access to fresh food, stable housing, and education (all problems plaguing Englewood,) there's something to be said for giving the neighborhood's residents a chance to participate in a broader cultural conversation about them.