Filmmaker Spike Lee defends his planned film on Chicago violence

Thu May 14, 2015 2:17pm EDT
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By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Movie director Spike Lee, known for films that deal frankly with racial issues, appeared in Chicago on Thursday to defend his planned movie about the city, after its reported title, "Chiraq," was criticized by local politicians.

Speaking at a South Side church and surrounded by African-American mothers carrying pictures of children killed in street violence, Lee said artists hold up a mirror to society and are not afraid to tell the truth.

"We have to stop the madness," Lee said. "This is insane."

He said people who know nothing about it have been expressing opinions about the film. Lee referred to the movie's "so-called title," but did not say if "Chiraq" would be the title and did not take questions.

"Chiraq" is street slang that compares the nation's third largest city to the war zones of the Middle East. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and local alderman Anthony Beale have expressed concern over the title, with Beale calling it "insulting."

Chicago recorded 407 murders in 2014, far ahead of the 328 recorded in the larger city of New York. Chicago has long fought a reputation for violence, enhanced by the mythology surrounding Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone.

Lee said he was not concerned about Chicago politics or tourism.

"This is not about Chicago losing business," Lee said.   Continued...

Director Spike Lee accepts the President's Award at the 46th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California February 6, 2015.   REUTERS/Danny Moloshok