Burns, Pfleger, Emanuel and Lee on Chiraq

Spike Lee on a mission captures the real deal on issue, concerns and reason for "Chi Raq", the documentary
Spike Lee on a mission captures the real deal on issue, concerns and reason for “Chi-Raq,” the documentary

Burns, Pfleger, Emanuel and Lee on Chiraq

The sides weigh in about Spike Lee’s  plans to call his next movie “Chiraq” — an urbane depiction of Black-on-Black violence filmed in Englewood but Alderman Will Burns (Chicago 4th) says he might want to think twice about asking taxpayers to kick in a multimillion dollar tax break.

According to Burn he asked Lee’s representatives at a meeting with the Illinois Film Office and city department of special events about how much of a tax break the Amazon Studios production hopes to collect.

Lee’s people answered, “ $3 million,” Burns said. “I said, ‘You recognize that by seeking public support that gives us a seat at the table.’ They had no response to that.”

Burns was an architect of the state’s film industry tax credit under former state Senate President Emil Jones prior to his current position. The tax break offers producers a credit of 30 percent of expenditures in an attempt spur growth, job opportunities and stimulate diversity in hiring.

“The tax credit is about jobs and bringing productions to the city, but look, if we give incentives to a corporation .  . . we frequently have requirements,” Burns said. “Under the law there’s a diversity component, and they have to report on how many jobs they create. If they get this credit they need to be mindful of the public.”

Both the mayor and Burns claim that they have objection to Lee’s project’s  working title — “Chiraq,” a moniker mindful of  Chicago’s violence compared to an Iraqi war zone made popular by gangster rap stars, including Chief Keef.

Burns insist, that the title ‘Chiraq’  brands  the city. From his perspective for taxpayers living on the South and West Sides,  active in block clubs and work to make their neighborhoods better, it’s a slap in the face.

Burns sites, “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?”

The there’s the self appointed messiah Father Michael Pfleger who has been embraced by the Black community who sides with Lee. In fact he refers to Lee as courageous. Those who side with Lee have faith  in his ability to get the Black Story right. He’s a tremendous story teller. Chicago Defender staff writers Mary Datcher and  Robert Starks both agree that Spike Lee’s track record proves his expertise and powers as an excellent storyteller and express faith in how he will handle the field.

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters  that he met with Lee at City Hall and told the filmmaker he doesn’t like the title, “Chiraq.”

The Mayor pointed out that he was   clear that he was not happy about the title.”

His concern is that there are good people who live in Englewood  raising  families and that . there’s a lot of positive things happening in Englewood, mainly driven by the people that make up Englewood. SO any depict of it as otherwise would not be inspiring.

It’s not clear whether or not Mayor Emanuel directly asked  to change the film’s working title.

Burns said that he expects there to be conversation about changing the controversial “Chiraq” title, which he doesn’t consider a matter of free speech.

Unfortunately both the Mayor and Burns seem to be missing the fact that Englewood has numerous parents of dead children from the violence in their community. It kept be swept under the rug. The truth is truth.

“It’s not a First Amendment issue, and I’m on the board of the ACLU by the way, because no one is saying he can’t make the movie. I’m just saying if you’re going to take the subsidy, 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.”

 Burns conversation doesn’t consider the numerous parents of dead children who have shared their stories with Spike Lee they are the public he refers to that should be given a seat at the table. So what’s the real problem? We the people could ask?

It seems that the city is more concerned about potential future business deals going sour due to the name Chi-Raq more than they are about the residents of Englewood or any other south or west side neighborhoods.


Spike Lee flanked by parents of children lost to violence in Englewood.
Spike Lee flanked by parents of children lost to violence in Englewood.

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