Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he met with Spike Lee on Wednesday and expressed his displeasure with the director’s decision to call a movie he’s planning to film “Chiraq,” which Emanuel said Lee told him would be about black-on-black violence in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
“We had an honest, frank conversation,” Emanuel said of his meeting with Lee, which Emanuel’s staff said took place at City Hall. “He said that while 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 that live in Englewood who are raising their family and there’s a lot of positive things that are happening in Englewood mainly driven by the people that make up Englewood.”
The New York-based director drew attention this month when reports surfaced that he was working on a movie titled “Chiraq,” a nickname for Chicago often employed by rappers to highlight the extreme violence in parts of the city.
Emanuel said Lee acknowledged during their meeting that Chicago isn’t the only violent city in America. “It’s happening in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, where he’s from. He talked about a name of a part of Brooklyn where he’s from. He talked about how Philadelphia’s referred to. He talked about how Baltimore’s referred to.”
Emanuel has been dogged by high-profile shooting deaths and periodic spikes in street violence during his time in office, and tried to walk the line during the recent mayoral campaign of touting the strides his administration had made in dealing with the problem while remaining sympathetic to Chicago residents who don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods.
On Wednesday, Emanuel said he hopes some good comes out of Lee’s movie.
“He did say the movie would take on the subject of black-on-black violence, specifically African-American male to African-American male violence, and how it’s affecting the community and what goes on,” Emanuel said. “I said then, and I believe, that’s an important conversation to have. Given you’re a great artist, while I don’t support the title and I don’t like the working title, the topic is a conversation that has been ignored for too long and needs to be discussed.”
Emanuel did not say whether Lee agreed to consider changing the title.
by John Byrne
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