In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Rahm Emanuel voiced his disapproval of the title as he revealed how he brought his grievance to Lee. Taking its name from a mash-up of Chicago and Iraq, “Chiraq” centers on Chicago’s struggle on violent crime with a focus on Englewood, one of the city’s most dangerous areas. The name is said to have been created by young Chicago residents and popularized by rappers like Chief Keef as a description of the violent state of their hometown compared to war zone in Iraq.
“We had an honest, frank conversation. He said that while the movie is about the neighborhood of Englewood, I was clear that I was not happy about the title,” said Emanuel told the Tribune on Wednesday (April 15). “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.”
As their conversation continued, Lee admitted to violence and similar high crime rates being an issue in cities beyond Chicago, such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.
“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 said he told Lee.
Ironically, Emanuel’s reaction to the film’s title comes as Lee works to get a $3 million tax break from the state of Illinois. According to DNAinfo.com, representatives for the filmmaker attended a meeting with the Illinois Film Office and city department of special events on Wednesday to discuss how much of a tax break “Chiraq” hopes to get.
“They said $3 million,” Chicago Alderman Will Burns shared with the news outlet. “I said, ‘You recognize that by seeking public support that gives us a seat at the table.’ They had no response to that.”
With the tax break, producers receive a credit of 30 percent of expenditures in an attempt to create growth and job opportunities as well as stimulate diversity in hiring.
“The tax credit is about jobs and bringing productions to the city, but look, if we give incentives to a corporation … we frequently have requirements,” Burns said. “Under the law there’s a diversity component, and they have to report on how many jobs they create. If they get this credit they need to be mindful of the public.”
Like Emanuel, Burns see a problem with the name of Lee’s film and feels the name is “a slap in the face” to those who aren’t involved in Chicago’s violent crime scene.
“With the title, ‘Chiraq’ that’s branding whole parts of the city. For people who live on the South and West Sides who pay their taxes, are active in block clubs and work to make their neighborhoods better, it’s a slap in the face,” he said while wondering how Lee, a New York resident, could helm a film about his city.
“South Siders and West Siders already walk around with a massive chip on their shoulders. There’s a sense the media only comes to cover dead bodies and not the positive things that happen every day. And why is this guy from New York coming to do a movie about Chicago?”