City Officials Continue to Clash Over “Chiraq”

Ald. Will Burns asked for City Council to push the state to deny Spike Lee a $3 million tax break for the film

The name Spike Lee's upcoming Chicago flick "Chiraq" alone is enough to stir the pot with city officials, who have clashed this week with Lee over the controversial film.

Ald. Will Burns (4th) on Wednesday asked the Chicago City Council to vote on a measure that would push the state to deny Lee’s company a $3 million tax break for shooting the film in Illinois if he moves forward with the "Chiraq" name.

"I'm really concerned about the brand "Chiraq" being applied to neighborhoods where people are trying to do the right thing,"

He added that part of the deal with the tax credit is the film production company – in this case Lee’s Forty Acres and A Mule Filmworks – has to prove that the movie will have an overall positive impact on the state.

Burns believes that in this case the slated “Chiraq” title will make it difficult to bring economic development and jobs to the city in the future, and in turn take a negative toll.

Lee had recently scouted multiple locations in the city to shoot the new project. The filmmaker is also reportedly in talks to bring several big-name stars on board with ties to Chicago such as Kanye West, Common, Jeremy Piven and Samuel L. Jackson.

Burns is not the only one to express his disapproval of "Chiraq."

During a City Council meeting last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he spoke with Lee and told him that while he does not oppose the film itself, he opposes the title due to its characterization of the city as a war zone.

But the violence itself is what some think should be the primary focus of heated debate – not the name of the movie.

Father Michael Pfleger expressed his displeasure of the mere fact that the title of the film is the only issue that continues to arise, instead of the underlying topic itself, in a post to his Facebook page Thursday.

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Very disappointing to see Ald. Will Burns trying to block the tax break for Spike Lee's movie. He has not seen the... Posted by Father Michael Pfleger on Thursday, May 7, 2015

The specifics of the film’s plotline have yet to be released, but Emanuel said Lee told him he wants to focus on “black-on-black violence,” particularly among African-American men.

"He's filming in the community," Pfleger told NBC Chicago. "He's hiring from the community, and he's dealing with issues in the community. What's the problem?"

Regardless of what Chicago’s most prominent people think, Lee has made one thing clear – he wants real Chicagoans to be involved.

The director announced Monday they would be holding an open casting in search of extras from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday at St. Sabina Academy in the Gresham neighborhood. The casting agency says hundreds of Chicago locals of all ethnicities will be hired.

Jeff Bezo’s Amazon-launched AmazonStudios is set to produce the film.

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