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Chiraq attack rebuffed

Tuesday, Jun 16, 2015

* Tribune

For the second time in a week, a City Council member has backed away after threatening legislative action to protest the use of the title “Chiraq” for filmmaker Spike Lee’s Chicago-based movie.

The City Council Finance Committee was set Monday to hold a hearing on a nonbinding resolution asking the state to withhold a tax break from Lee and his company, 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks, as long as the film kept its controversial title.

But the resolution’s sponsor, Ald. Will Burns, 4th, said the hearing would instead be held at a later date. Asked whether he still wants state lawmakers not to give Lee the break, Burns said the important thing was to hold a hearing so Chicagoans can air their thoughts on the term “Chiraq.”

“There are folks who want to talk about the movie title and they should be given an opportunity to do so,” Burns said in an email. He did not say when he plans to reschedule the hearing.

* Ald. Burns is a former House member. But the Illinois Senate voted 53-0 to pass a resolution in support of the film. From a press release…

In May, State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) led the Senate in commending director Spike Lee for his planned investment in Southside neighborhoods and supporting his choice of the title “Chiraq.” Collins reiterated today that there is broad consensus among elected officials statewide and, most importantly, her constituents, in favor of Lee’s project.

“As an elected representative of residents whose neighborhoods will be portrayed in this film and will benefit from the economic activity and jobs it generates, I have been overwhelmed with expressions of support for ‘Chiraq’ and introduced Senate Resolution 587 with this in mind,” Collins said. “More than 30 state senators co-sponsored the resolution in favor of a tax credit for ‘Chiraq,’ and while Alderman Burns is entitled to his personal opinion, what ought to matter is the perspective of local residents, along with the willingness of state government to give this project the same tax treatment as other eligible productions.”

Collins’ resolution urges the state to find Lee’s production company eligible for a tax credit designed to encourage television and film productions to employ Illinoisans and contract with Illinois vendors.

“The communities I represent are buffeted by unemployment, depressed property values and a chronic lack of investment,” Collins said. “This film will provide not only temporary jobs but also valuable training and experience for those hired, and local businesses will benefit from the opportunity to provide goods and services to the production.”

Lee is in the process of hiring nearly 3,000 extras, 100 crew members and 20 interns; most will be residents of Englewood, whose 21.3 percent unemployment rate far exceeds the state and national average, and neighboring communities. Englewood will also be home to ninety percent of the locations used in the film.

Spike Lee, best known for his compelling treatments of race in America in movies such as “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” has said that “everything I’ve done has led up to this film.” His proposed title – “Chiraq” – has generated controversy, but Collins says she and many residents welcome an honest look at the violent crime that helps perpetuate the cycle of poverty and economic neglect in Englewood and disadvantaged communities throughout the state.

“Communities such as Englewood need better statistics, not better semantics; a commitment to people, not perceptions and a focus on public safety and the public good, not merely public relations,” Collins said. “This film will challenge society’s acceptance of the unacceptable in its forgotten corners, and by generating jobs and economic growth, it will also serve as part of the solution.”

* Meanwhile

A rookie alderman has backed off on his threat to withhold a block party permit for a prominent South Side church that collaborated with filmmaker Spike Lee on a movie that has the working title of “Chiraq.”

Earlier this week, Ald. David Moore, 17th, said he would not sign a permit for a block party to be held Saturday by St. Sabina Catholic Church being sponsored by Lee, who worked on the film with Rev. Michael Pfleger, the prominent anti-violence activist who is pastor of the church.

But on Friday Moore said that after speaking with residents on 1700 and 1800 blocks of Throop Street, where the party is being held in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, he has signed the permit.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

15 Comments
  1. - Louis G Atsaves - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:13 am:

    I’ve always liked Spike Lee movies. I’ve always appreciated the way he has portrayed race relations and attitudes in America, using all perspectives.

    The City of Chicago, with their constant sniping and carping of the content of this movie, the content of which has not been fully disclosed by Lee, and the roadblocks they keep tossing in his direction, have given Lee tons of free publicity. Good for him.

    I look forward to seeing Mr. Lee’s latest movie soon. I am sure I will remain a big fan of his.


  2. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:14 am:

    I thought we can’t afford anything.
    Why are we giving this multi-millionaire money to become an even bigger “enfant-terrible”?


  3. - walker - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:16 am:

    The South Bronx started being rebuilt in a serious way, after the film titled “Fort Apache” caused such consternation among some community groups there.

    just sayin’


  4. - A guy - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:17 am:

    Really dude. All those Dirty Harry movies really made San Francisco an undesirable place to visit?

    Oh, wait…they didn’t. Much, much ado.


  5. - Mokenavince - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:27 am:

    The film crews are spending most of their time in Wicker Park, which is as safe as Canada. There were few problems when the block party was at St. Sabina’s. That area still troubled but vastly improved by Father Pfleger. Go to the area where Coolly High was filmed every has changed there.


  6. - Mark - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:28 am:

    I hate the term but ya gotta give him credit! Spike is running a great earned media campaign for his movie


  7. - Wordslinger - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:35 am:

    So long as nitwit aldermen aren’t busting into tne Art Institute with police protection and ripping paintings off the wall, consider it a victory for freedom of expression.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:42 am:

    Sometimes art is always sunshine and lollipops.

    Spike Lee is an artist of capturing human nature and that human nature in situations and the results of that mix. That’s the art. The skill of that art is being able to develop characters not caricatures. His works speak for themselves.


  9. - Tourés Latte - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:48 am:

    Spike Lee just changed the title to “Chicago: A Really Wonderful Place To Be Poor and Black”

    Problem solved. Never mind that he could simply change it back after he’s done.

    Sometimes the mind-numbing stupidity reaches a super-nova level.


  10. - Anonin' - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    wonder if Spike “hires” these guys to gin up attention? the extra pub is super. Now we can wait some genius from the ‘burbs like Mutt Murphy or Dunce Duffy to sponsor a rez declaring the flick to be the official flick of ILce


  11. - Team Sleep - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 10:58 am:

    Freedom of speech is the longest two-way street.


  12. - D.P.Gumby - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 11:14 am:

    Spike should consider doing “Chi-Rauner”…likely to have even more casualties…


  13. - Bedbug - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 11:14 am:

    Chicago politicos are sure giving Spike Lee a lot of free publicity. He must be doing something very, very interesting with Chiraq that they would need to address it the way they have over the last few months. Spike Lee did not invent the phrase “Chirag.” He’s simply using a term that was created out of Chicago’s very violent street culture. If you want to censor “Chiraq,” you better have a plan for fixing “Chiraq” - which is very hard to do when you are flat broke from other problems you may have played a role in creating. I would let this one die…


  14. - Bedbug - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    Toures - very funny! Maybe “Everything Is Awesome” could be the first song on the soundtrack?


  15. - Bluegrass Boy - Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 2:57 pm:

    The alderman should be commended on taking the lead on this critical issue for his constituents. No one should want to see a movie made and money spent in a neighborhood unless everyone in the community gets to air their thoughts on the film’s title. This is how all commercial films should be made. Like when the Springfield City Council had all those hearings back when Spielberg made “Lincoln”.

    Thank goodness our /s


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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