Chiraq the Thorn in Chicago’s Side
by Kai EL’ Zabar
The Chicago Sun Times front page read, “Why Chicago Isn’t ‘Chiraq’. Tribune writer Phil Rosenthal, wrote,” Movies like Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-raq’ aren’t Chicago’s Real Problem.”
He goes on to make his point, “Memo to anyone still hyperventilating somehow over how the war zone allusion of “Chiraq,” “Chi-raq” or whatever spelling Spike Lee is using for his Englewood movie might not reflect well on Chicago:
When this city is on the silver screen, it’s often the tarnish that draws people in — and it hasn’t driven anyone or anything away yet.
Actual crime scares people.
Movie crime, not so much.”
Interestingly enough, people have spouted off their view of Spike Lee’s intention and have come forth to express why it’s not the title that they think represents Chicago or the title they don’t want to represent Chicago. While the Mayor and his supporters including Will Burns have expressed their dislike related to the financial impact it can have on the city. Their position is that being branded as Chiraq could turn away interested businesses because of the image that the term Chiraq conjures up. The refusal to give Spike Lee the film tax break concerns me from a legal perspective yet as Rosenthal points out, “Let’s also not concern ourselves with whether the “Chiraq” tax break debate is moot in that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has said such financial incentives are off the table while the state limps along without a budget.”
Truth is even if the mayor did not take issue with the working title, it’s unlikely that the break would be given. To Rosenthal’s point, “One might ask if “Chiraq” could be any less flattering than the city’s recent credit rating reports, given Chicago’s failure to solve its financial problems. But there you have it.”
If we’re to believe that businesses would turn away and run from Chicago because of the reputation the term Chiraq brands Chicago as, why wouldn’t its financial status not be more harmful? After all we have to be honest here. Are the potential businesses likely to move to Englewood? Perhaps that’s where they are most needed–in those underserved communities that would better be able to offer employment in their communities that in the long run could be a factor to help end the violence.
There are so many real factors not considered. First, crime does exist at an alarming occurrence in Chicago. Much of the crime depicted has been the crime of the impoverished and became high profile because it was Black on Black crime. Though different in its impact, the high profile political corruption crimes by politicians like Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Daniel Walker, Otto Kerner, Jr., Len Small, William G. Stratton, all governors most of whom came from Chicago, not to mention the Chicago Machine.
Al Capone created such an impression that years long after his death when traveling through Europe when I’d express that I was from Chicago, it was not unusual for the Italians, the French or whomever to respond, “Shootem up bang, bang, Al Capone.” Talk about a reputation.
Rosenthal goes on to address the various movies that have not painted Chicago in the best light centering around crime such as the ‘Untouchables,” that depicts a Chicago run by Al Capone.
I say it’s all wrong whether we like Chief Keef’s lyrics, lifestyle or not as an artist, he has the right to earn his money. The reason given for the obstruction of justice is that his music incites violence . Father Pfleger was the first to come out and say, “Shut him down.”
Now, what I’m saying is, Father Pfleger has been nothing but supportive of Spike Lee’s film Chiraq. So whats the deal with that?
Has it ever occurred to us that maybe, just maybe Spike really is the great storyteller/filmmaker that we have known him to be? Let the man make his film. If you don’t want to see it then don’t. That’s your right.
The recent announcement that Spike Lee’s Chirag film will be the first of Amazon’s new online movie channel means that there will be no theatrical release. So you don’t have to leave your home to see it. It will have to be accessed via the internet.
And thank goodness that they did because it expresses my sentiments exactly.
The point is that life is a mix of both the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. To tell the story about the ugly is not a bad thing. It is a necessary thing.
Should we band the violent video games, should we stop “CSI,” “Law & Order,” “Criminal Minds”, etc., all from being shown on tv? It’s quite possible that they impact some to be violent. The point is multi-layered and faceted. It’s not black or white but rather shades of perspectives. But when it comes to ones rights being violated. Authorities better check themselves otherwise we will have to check them.
Lastly, Chiraq has always been the ‘working title’, and Spike has never said what exactly the movie is about. A synopsis’ has not been issued. We have all assumed that we know what the film’s focus is and what it’s all about. I choose to wait and see and to rely on Spike’s track record. And trust me it is not what you think . . . I know people and . . .