It’s Real Out Here in These Streets: CHI RAQ
By Mary L. Datcher
CD Senior Staff Writer
The very word Chiraq conjures up negative feelings by many who think it can do no good. Together Spike Lee and Father Pfleger called a press conference to discuss the concerns of critic’s preconceived notions of the film’s name, Chi Raq. Will this film depict negative images of exploitation that some Chicago public officials are concerned will affect outside perception. The film has come under scrutiny by Alderman Will Burns (4th Ward) in blocking $3 million in tax breaks putting pressure on the Lee’s production efforts.
Although, the press conference included about 25 parents of murdered children who have fallen to the violence of crime that plagues our streets and neighborhoods, the name is still unnerving for some leaders. Father Pfleger has been working closely with Lee and his production team in dispelling these concerns and supporting the importance of shining attention to the lost of lives in predominately Black communities.
On the small lawn in front of St. Sabina Church stood community leaders, parents, Spike Lee and Chicago native and actor, John Cusack who has a starring role in the film. They addressed over 50 news reporters and media outlets.
“People are judging from afar and they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. We’ve gathered with people behind me and in front of me and want to tell the story not to just Chicago, not just to the United States but to the world why this film matters.” said Lee.
John Cusack added, “The only reason to do this film is to help save lives. The film is set in Chicago but could easily be set in any urban city in America where poverty, violence and desperation are so irrepressible. This film stands in the long tradition of American films with conscious and art—good art, working valiantly to shrink the gap between words, symbols and the truth people live with everyday and feel underneath their skin.” said Cusack.
“Politics, sadly at times can do the opposite with a different agenda. Politicians can be fearful at times and I get it. Art must be courageous and anyone who wants a more peaceful America will understand where the heart of this film is.”
Lee held auditions for extras two weeks ago at St.Sabina Church to the growing enthusiasm to neighborhood residents. The production budget for ‘Chi Raq’ is approximately $15 million and will bring job opportunities for local residents as well as economic stimulation to neighborhoods that filming will take place in. The concept of the script wasn’t revealed at the press conference but the word is, the storyline will be loosely based on a comedy/drama that centers around women in the neighborhood withholding sex from their men to reduce the violence that has taken over their lives.
Currently, local and national music artists have been approached to submit songs for the soundtrack but to keep with the authenticity of Chicago—expect to hear a combination of popular drill and juke music as the backdrop. It’s obvious that Lee is focused on what he does best—tell the story from a unique perspective that engages the ones that can carry the message to their peers. Either way, they’ve accomplished their goal—they got our attention.