Senator Urges Ill. Senate to Support Spike Lee’s Upcoming “Chiraq” Film

Last month, Ald. Will Burns asked the Chicago City Council to vote on a measure that would push the state to deny a $3 million tax break if Lee moved forward with the “Chiraq” name

An Illinois state senator spoke out Sunday in support of Spike Lee’s highly-debated upcoming film “Chiraq.”

Sen. Jacqueline Collins on Sunday commended Lee for his decision to film his latest project in Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood.

Collins sponsored a resolution to urge the state to find Lee’s production company eligible for a tax credit designed to encourage television and film productions to employ Illinoisans and contract with Illinois vendors.

“The communities I represent are buffeted by unemployment, depressed property values and a chronic lack of investment,” Collins said in a statement. “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.”

Collins said the production company plans to hire nearly 3,000 extras, 100 crew members and 20 interns this summer and most will be residents of Englewood. 

Last month, Ald. Will Burns asked the Chicago City Council to vote on a measure that would push the state to deny the $3 million tax break if Lee moved forward with the “Chiraq” name.

"Chiraq" is the slang term some use to compare America's third-largest city to a war zone because of its violent crime.

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

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 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.

Actor John Cusack, a Chicago native who is working on the film with Lee, said that any controversy surrounding the film is "a bit of a manufactured political controversy.”

Collins said 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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