In an interview with Chicago magazine, Lee spoke on the disapproval he’s gotten from the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, over the title. Set for a December release in theaters and on Amazon Prime, “Chi-raq” shines a light on black on black gun violence in Chicago. The movie’s title is popular nickname given to the city by local rappers who compare its crime rates to a warzone in Iraq.
For Lee, the chance of him yielding to Emanuel is slim to none. In April, the pair met to discuss the director’s plans for “Chi-raq.”
“What I didn’t like was him trying to paint me as this villain. I’m not the bad guy, but that’s how he was trying to portray it,” the filmmaker said. “Do I have the guns? Am I the one pulling the trigger? To be honest, he’s a bully… He’s not gonna bully me.”
Recalling the meeting, Lee mentioned that Emanuel’s concerns about the title of his film are rooted in it affecting Chicago’s “economic development.”
“His whole thing was, the title is going to hurt tourism, the title is going to hurt economic development. But what tourism is he talking about?” Lee told Chicago magazine. “While we were shooting the film, you had the NFL draft here. Quarter million people in Grant Park… So this part of the city is booming,” he continued in the magazine. “But there are no bulletproof double-decker buses going through the Wild Hundreds [the gang-infested area from 100th to 130th Streets] or through Terror Town [a two-by-four-block patch of South Shore]. What economic development is going on in the South Side?”
Emanuel isn’t the only Chicago politician voicing his problem with “Chi-raq.” The Huffington Post notes that alderman William Burns weighed in on the film’s title this spring as he labeled it as a “slap in the face” to residents who pay their taxes and work to clean up the city’s negative image. In addition, Burns wondered about Lee’s decision to come from New York to do a movie about Chicago.
Despite Burns’ criticism, Lee admitted that the reaction to him filming “Chi-raq” was “nothing but love.”
“There’s this perception that all of Chicago didn’t want me here. ‘Spike, get the f*ck out of here, go back to New York.’ But everywhere I went — North Side, West Side, South Side, black people, white people — I got nothing but love our entire time here. Love,” he shared with Chicago magazine.
“As I’d be walking the streets, going to games, the airports, everybody would say, ‘Keep Chi-Raq. Don’t change the title. F*ck him,’” he said of one encounter. “I swear on my mother’s grave. They are coming up to me. I’m not soliciting it.”
“For more of Lee’s candid Chicago magazine interview, click here.