Chiraq Zolly: The Road to Redemption

Next, I want to tackle a scene that confronts Nick Cannon’s Chiraq with his demons, a scene that comes to life through Lee’s careful application of the zolly technique. I spoke at length about this device within the context of Lee’s Inside Man (here’s a link to that discussion). 

After a tense one-on-one with Father Mike Corridan, during which the pastor indicates his knowledge of Chiraq’s involvement in the death of Patty, the leader of the Spartans finds himself confronted by visions of scantily dressed women dancing outside of his home. One by one, the imaginary women tantalize Chiraq in a series of whip-pans/POV shots as they strut up and down the street in front of him. In between these shots, with the camera trained on a suddenly distraught looking Chiraq, Lee employs a subtle zolly effect, effectively shrinking the character against an ever-enlarging background. Then, after a few more whip pans to more sexy women, Lee follows up with these two shots:

Here, Lee subverts viewer expectations for the scene. At first, it seemed as if Chiraq was simply feeling the effects of smoking far too much weed, causing his sexual frustration to manifest as a parade of sexual objects. With the employment of the zolly effect, Lee seizes the opportunity to transform this scene into a powerful moment of self-reflection and moral judgement through the images of mourning women and murdered black children. With the eyes of murder victims before him, Chiraq enters Commissioner Blades SUV with no resistance as he prepares to bring an end to the strike.

To me, this scene furthers Lee’s intention to flip the script on the sexualization of black bodies, allowing this narrative device to unmask the film’s most hard-nosed character. By lulling Chiraq into a state of rumination over his role in the death of a child, Lee demonstrates his ability to dig into a previously unsympathetic figure with an aesthetic that teems with visual weight and emotional potency. This small moment allows for Chiraq’s confession at the end of the film to seem all the more powerful as he becomes confronted with Patty’s mother holding a picture of her slain daughter. Thus, this dream sequence sets Chiraq on the road to consolation and, ultimately, redemption.

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Author: marquezdoee

Amherst Class of 2016. Media Studies Major. Katy Perry Enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “Chiraq Zolly: The Road to Redemption”

  1. This is a super interesting analysis of this scene. I wonder though, do you think it was necessarily for the women to be young/scantily dressed to make the point of how Chi-raq needs to change his ways? Do you think it has extra power that the women are young and attractive and the same point couldn’t have been made with middle-aged mothers?


  2. I find myself looking for the zolly shot whenever I watch a Lee film now, so it was very satisfying seeing this towards the end of Chi-Raq. Rather than looking at the zolly shot, I was confused by the representations of women in this scene. Throughout this film (and in most of mainstream society), women are seen as maternal figures or as sexual objects. This duality is seen in the older and younger generations of women, although even the older women are sexualized at points in the film.

    Although this characterization of women persists, I felt as though this scene was the only scene that broke away from this structure. As Chiraq leaves his meeting with Father Mike Corridan, he sees two hyper-sexualized women in their underwear, and this scene is juxtaposed with mourning women. The mourning women are dressed in a burka and a full length cloak–but why?

    The first image that I think about is the cartoon that perceives each other as oppressed by “male-dominated culture” rather than empowered by their appearance:

    And then I’m left with confusion. I’m confused as to why, such physical conservatism, but also a conservatism that is linked towards a religion that is not referenced all throughout this movie is used for this scene? I can understand if Lee was attempting to show virility in the women while covering up the body, but this could have been done without the burka and the cloak. So why did he use it? Do you think that he should have used it? What was the point?


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