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11/25/15 - Chicago Tribune: Beyond 'Chi-Raq': 5 movies (and a series) about Chicago violence


"More Than a Bullet": This film is probably closest in spirit to Spike Lee's 2006 Hurricane Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke." From Chicagoans Nick Davis (producer) and Evan W. Staley (director), the 45-minute documentary has a sharp look and sound, exploring the many factors (historical and otherwise) that have led to a community where gun violence is an everyday occurrence.

Staley talks with members of the NLMB (Never Leave My Brothers) gang and asks if they think the police are there to protect them. The reply: "You already dead on the floor by the time they pull up." The filmmakers also interview hip-hop artists who talk about why the elimination of after-school programs has left young people adrift to become absorbed into street life, and all that implies. University of Chicago sociologist Forrest Stuart explains how the deck is stacked from the start, with discipline meted out in South Side schools by police officers for infractions as minor as talking out of turn: "So you're automatically marked with this kind of criminal identity."

The film also confronts "Chiraq" as a slang word for Chicago, and Staley is smart to acknowledge that there is no consensus either way.

"I get offended when people outside Chicago say Chiraq," the rapper Roosevelt the Titan tells the camera. "I don't personally use that (word) but the people who are in that (drill music scene) … doing the things that they're rapping about and saying Chiraq … when that word was originated, they felt like they was in Iraq, that they were going to war every day … so this is how they're going to get their voice out. That's how they're going to tell their story."

Seeming to anticipate the controversy over Lee's decision to use the word as the title for a film, he added: "People from outside, you don't got the right to be wearing no Chiraq hat. It's not advertising. You don't brand it.""

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