Last week, Chicagoans found themselves divided over the announcement that Spike Lee will be directing a Chicago-set film, Chiraq. Myself and the rest of the Ruby Hornet team took a stand against the title, calling the name “misguided, demeaning, and insulting to Chicago.” The director is in town for this weekend’s CIMM Fest, and recently met with some city leaders to find funding and receive a tax break for the film.
Exactly how much of a tax break is Lee and his production team asking for? $3 million. Alderman Will Burns of the 4th Ward, who also helped structure the film industry tax break system for Illinois, responded to Lee’s representatives’ request, stating, “You recognize that by seeking public support that gives us a seat at the table.” Burns is part of the very vocal group of opposition that finds the film title demeaning. He further states:
With the title Chiraq, that’s branding whole parts of the city. For people who live on the South and West Sides who pay their taxes, are active in block clubs and work to make their neighborhoods better, it’s a slap in the face […] South Siders and West Siders already walk around with a massive chip on their shoulders. There’s a sense the media only comes to cover dead bodies and not the positive things that happen every day. And why is this guy from New York coming to do a movie about Chicago?
Recently re-elected Mayor Emanuel also met with Lee at City Hall yesterday, voicing his dislike of Chiraq as the film’s title to the director. Mayor Emanuel also expressed his concern over the depiction of Englewood residents, where the film will be shot in and located. When asked what Emanuel said to Lee, the Mayor replied:
He said 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 who live in Englewood who are raising their family. There’s a lot of positive things happening in Englewood, mainly driven by the people that make up Englewood.
With a vocal opposition to the title from both everyday citizens and city leaders, it would only make sense for Lee to truly hear our concern and opinions over why the title should be changed. Lee’s a smart man, and I’m sure he’ll be open to changing the title from Chiraq once he sees exactly how passionate we are about our reasons… especially if he receives a state tax break to shoot the film here. As Alderman Burns says, “[…] the public should be given a seat at the table, and we need to have a conversation and a dialogue about it. It’s our money, and it’s our city.”
[via DNAinfo Chicago]