Audiences are finally getting a look at Spike Lee’s much-anticipated new film, “Chiraq.”
A trailer for the controversial project, which explores the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, debuted online Tuesday. It features a star-studded cast – Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Nick Cannon, Angela Bassett and Dave Chappelle, just to name a few – and a more sardonic tone than some might expect. The film appears to portray a fictional movement led by women of color to deprive men of sex if they insist on engaging in gun violence:
“Chiraq” has been a lightening rod ever since it’s title (which is a nod to a popular hip-hop meme which links the Windy City to the war zones of Iraq) was announced. Lee, never one to back down from a public spat, has been outspoken about the opposition his film has faced from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who he recently referred to as a “bully.” Lee and Emanuel met early on in the film’s production to try to reach common ground to no avail.
“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? 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,” Lee told Chicago Magazine in a recent interview. “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 was more sanguine about their sit-down earlier this year. “We had an honest, frank conversation,” the mayor said in April. “He said that while the movie is about the neighborhood of Englewood, I said that I was not happy about the title.”
“I have no issue with filmmakers wanting to make movies about the city of Chicago,” Alderman William Burns said in July. “What I do have issue with is using a title for a movie that offends many people on the South Side, makes it harder to bring economic development to those neighborhoods and to give someone a tax subsidy to do it.” Lee reportedly has sought a $3 million tax break for filming on location in Chicago.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people have been shot in Chicago this year, which tops 2014 (933) and 2013 (817). The city has also seen more than 500 homicides in the last 10 years. The film, which is being positioned as a potential Oscar contender, will hit theaters on December 4.