In a style that is typical for the New York filmmaker, Spike Lee has once again set tongues wagging about his latest film, “Chi-raq.” The title combines the names of the city of Chicago with Iraq. The moniker was popularized outside of the famed Windy City by rapper Chief Keef and refers to the city’s notoriously violent history and crime rate, likening the violence to the wars in Iraq.
The film seeks to place a spotlight on the dismal recurrence of gun violence in the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, and stars Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Dave Chappelle, and Common. As politicians including the city’s Alderman and Mayor have rushed to chime in on their disapproval of the film’s title, there is no doubt that Lee’s choice has struck a chord. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who has been dogged by many high profile shootings during his tenure, met with Lee in April. Said the Mayor,
We had an honest, frank conversation… He said that while the movie is about the neighborhood of Englewood, I was clear that I was not happy about the title. I told him also that there are very good people that live in Englewood who are raising their family and there’s a lot of positive things that are happening in Englewood mainly driven by the people that make up Englewood.
Alderman William Burns had more criticism for the name stating,
These are communities where people are doing the right thing, people trying to have a decent neighborhood. Having a movie called ‘Chi-raq’ will make it much more difficult for folks like me and other aldermen to bring economic development to those neighborhoods. Who wants to live in a place that people call Chi-raq?
The Alderman went so far as to suggest that Lee should not receive a $3 million tax break for filming there.
“Part of the deal with the tax credit is that the film production company has to prove that the film will have a positive economic impact on the state of Illinois…And I think by calling a whole part of the city of Chicago ‘Chi-raq,’ that will make it hard to bring economic development to those communities, to bring jobs to those communities, and will therefore have a negative economic impact on the state of Illinois. And for that reason, they should deny it.”
An unbothered Lee responded with the brutal facts via Instagram.
With all of the fervor around the name, one of the most interesting parts of the movie still speaks of Lee’s genius and creativity. The film is reportedly a musical comedy based upon Aristophanes’ comedy, Lysistrata. “Lysistrata” persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace ending the war. The power of…unity… indeed! It’s exciting to wonder how Lee will weave this classic comedy into the modern day ails of a staggeringly violent city, nicknamed Chi-raq.