Spike Lee’s new film, Chiraq, is still in the early stages of production, but it is already causing controversy because of its name. The name “Chiraq” carries a negative connotation for many people in Chicago. The city was given the nickname after people started comparing the number of gun-violence casualties in neighborhoods like Englewood to what was happening in Iraq. Many people feel that the name is degrading, not just to the city but also to those who lost their lives to gun violence in Chicago and abroad.
Last month Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed his displeasure with the movie title and urged Lee to consider changing it.
“We had an honest, frank conversation,” Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “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.”
But changing the movie title doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. On Thursday, Lee held a press conference in the South Side of Chicago. Lee urged people to reserve judgment until they see the movie, and he wanted to let people know what the movie was about, instead of the hearsay.
“So we felt it was appropriate that we say what the narrative is—the filmmakers, the people doing this, not the people who are judging from afar,” Lee stated.
Lee said the movie was about truth, justice, peace and gang violence in Englewood. Lee also reminded people about the negative feedback he received before his classic film Do the Right Thing was released.
“There were people who said this film is going to cause riots all across America, that black people are going to run amok,” Lee said. “They are going to look stupid and be on the wrong side of history.”
Lee, who was surrounded by mothers who lost their children to Chicago violence, as well as local clergy members, assured the crowd that his love for Chicago runs deep and he would not disrespect their city.
Chiraq will be released on Amazon.com, but a date has not been set.