Collins leads Senate in urging state support for Spike Lee film

Alderman Jacqueline Y. Collins pushes for tax break
Alderman Jacqueline Y. Collins pushes for tax break 

Filmmaker Spike Lee has a film in the making titled ChiRaq about Chicago.
Filmmaker Spike Lee has a film in the making titled ChiRaq about Chicago.

Collins: Film “Chiraq” to create jobs, spur economy, tell truth about violence

Collins leads Senate in urging state support for Spike Lee film

State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) led the Senate last week in commending director Spike Lee for his decision to film “Chiraq” in the Southside Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, creating thousands of jobs and investing in the local economy.

Collins sponsored a resolution that urges the state to find Spike Lee’s production company eligible for a tax credit designed to encourage television and film productions to employ Illinoisans and contract with Illinois vendors. Unfortunately Alderman Will Burns(D-Chicago 4th) has blocked the tax break consideration for Spike Lee’s film because of the film title.

Burns says the main objection to Lee’s project is the working title — “Chiraq,” a nickname comparing Chicago’s violent gang turf to an Iraqi war zone made popular by gangster rap stars, including Chief Keef.

But Collins defends her position,“The communities I represent are buffeted by unemployment, depressed property values and a chronic lack of investment. “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 intends to hire nearly 3,000 extras, 100 crew members and 20 interns starting this summer; 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.

Director 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.”

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