Carnegie Mellon University
March 07, 2016

Spike Lee To Attend CMU Screening of “Chi-Raq”

Part of “Faces of Conflict,” Lee Also Will Participate in Exclusive Q&A

By Shilo Rea  /

Spike Lee

Award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee will attend the screening of his latest film, “Chi-Raq,” at Carnegie Mellon University, at 6 p.m., Saturday, March 19 in McConomy Auditorium. Lee also will interact with audience members at a “Face to Face with Spike Lee” event from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m., and a Q&A prior to the screening.

Part of the 2016 CMU International Film Festival “Faces of Conflict” lineup, “Chi-Raq” is a modern-day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata,” set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. The title combines the city’s name with Iraq, equating Chicago to a war zone.

The satirical, musical drama begins when a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting kills a young girl. Despite pleas from her mother and the offer of a monetary reward for leads, witnesses remain silent for fear of the rival gangs involved. The main character Lysistrata, eager to prevent more bloodshed, persuades the girlfriends of both gangs to not have sex with their men until the violence ceases.

Lee, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards and won an Emmy, is known for using film to express his political beliefs and to examine race relations, the role of media in contemporary life and urban crime.

“Many people associate ‘conflict’ with war, but fortunately for most Americans, war remains an abstraction. Spike Lee has never been one to shy away from conflict here, on American soil,” said Jolanta Lion, director of the film festival and assistant director of the Humanities Center in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“‘Chi-Raq’ and several of our other films point to the conflicts on our own turf. Having Spike address these issues in person is sure to empower our audience to be vehicles of change,” she said.

“Chi-Raq’s” star-studded cast includes Nick Cannon, Teyonah Paris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Basset, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack and Jennifer Hudson. It won the 2015 African-American Film Critics Association’s Best Independent Film Award.

The film’s release sparked controversy for trivializing Chicago’s gang and violence problems, but Lee has continued to defend his message.

“Throughout his career, Spike Lee has continually heightened our awareness of the racial fault lines that exist in our society and forced his audience to confront their own beliefs. As a social critic and an artist, he has made a highly significant contribution to American dialogue and culture. This is a great opportunity for our students and community to engage with him on these issues," said Timothy J. Haggerty, director of the Humanities Scholars Program.

“Faces of Conflict” — the 10th anniversary of CMU’s International Film Festival — runs March 17 - April 3 at various locations throughout Pittsburgh.

Ticket Prices:

Full Access Festival Pass (includes "Chi-Raq" screening and Spike Lee Q&A; does not include "Face to Face with Spike Lee")
$25 seniors and students* | $50 regular

An Exclusive Engagement with Director Spike Lee (March 19)
“Face to Face with Spike Lee" (not included wiht Full Access Festival Pass)
"Chi-Raq" Screening + Spke Lee Q&A (included with Festival Pass)
$10 seniors and students* | $15 regular

"Chi-Raq" Screening + Spike Lee Q&A
$20 seniors and students* | $40 regular

*Present a valid student/OSHER ID when picking up tickets for student pricing

Purchase tickets and view the entire film festival schedule.


Credentialed members of the media may only attend the Q&A with Spike Lee and/or the screening of “Chi-Raq” by pre-registering with Shilo Rea by noon, March 18.


Lee’s visit is supported by CMU’s Humanities Scholars Program, Sylvia and David Steiner Speaker Series, Center for the Arts in Society, Dietrich College Dean's Office, AB Lectures, School of Art, Entertainment Technology Center, Department of English and Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies & the Economy (CAUSE).

The CMU International Film Festival is organized by The Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon, and is dedicated to and inspired by the life and work of the late Paul Goodman, a world-renowned filmmaker, psychologist and Carnegie Mellon professor.

The 2016 festival is funded in part by a generous sponsorship from TeleTracking Technologies, Inc., and is sponsored by a diverse group of institutions, organizations, media outlets and local establishments.

Learn more about Faces of Conflict.