Not a lot is known about Spike Lee's new film, set in Chicago, but opposition is already mounting against one aspect of it: its name, "Chiraq." South Side Alderman David Moore wants the director to change the working title of the movie, which is reportedly about black-on-black violence in Chicago, so much that he is refusing to grant a city permit for an upcoming annual block party sponsored by Lee, because of it.
The film, which is expected to shoot in part on the city's South Side, has generated controversy locally, as some fear it could glorify gang violence or, on the flip side, make light of a deadly serious issue. Others, like Moore, worry that Chiraq -- a conflation of Chicago and Iraq -- could give neighborhoods a worse rap than they already have or be destructive to the local economy.
“We already get excuses from people who come into our community saying why they’re not building. I don’t want this to be another excuse,” Moore said, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. He added that he had heard from parents whose children had died and who had "great reservations about this title." Moore has also characterized Lee's sponsorship of the block party as a "veiled attempt to buy the community's support," DNAinfo reported.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also reportedly has expressed his aversion to the title.
But Lee himself has dismissed such criticisms. In May, the month before filming was scheduled to begin, he spoke publicly in Chicago about the film. "A lot of things have been said about this film by people who know nothing about the film," Lee said, the Chicago Tribune reported. "A lot of people have opinions about the so-called title of the film," yet those people were "judging from afar" and "don't know what the hell they're talking about," he added.
The block party, which requires a permit to allow a street to be closed, is scheduled to be held Saturday afternoon outside St. Sabina Catholic Church. Its pastor, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has been cooperating with Lee on the film, argued that Moore was punishing the entire neighborhood simply because he disagreed with the title. "That's absolutely ridiculous," he said, and vowed for the party to take place with or without a permit.
In order for the permit to go through, it has to be signed by the alderman, who said that if the party went forward without a permit, it would set a poor example for youth in the neighborhood. "Everyone believes they can do their own thing for their own reasons and when that occurs, it creates the kind of chaos that we experience in the black community all too often," he said.
The film will star Jeremy Piven, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack and others, according to IMDb.com. It is slated for release in 2016.