“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,” Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel recently said about Spike Lee‘s developing Amazon movie, “Chiraq,” the title of which has been shorthand for the violence in the city. “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.” And while Lee is no stranger to controversy, it feels like it’s been a while since one of his films has truly stirred the pot. But “Chiraq” looks to change that, in what sounds like a pretty ambitious undertaking.
Screen Daily reveals that Kanye West, Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Cusack will feature in what’s described as a musical comedy, that plays on the classic Greek tale “Lysistrata.” The story will focus on a woman who strives to end gang warfare in the city, and I can’t help but wonder if Lee was inspired by Ameena Matthews from the recent documentary “The Interrupters,” who did just that. Feelings from the community about the movie’s title remain mixed, even if they do appreciate the director bringing needed attention to the issue of violence.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” resident Biance Alebiosu told the Chicago Tribune. “It puts a spotlight on the city, but personally, I don’t like how the name highlights violence. I have friends who are teachers and mentors in Chicago that are working hard to erase the violent image.”
There’s no word yet on when this might shoot, nor if Jeremy Piven and Common, mentioned as candidates in the first round of casting, are still involved. But this sounds like the kind of powder keg movie that we’ve missed from Lee that finds a great spectrum of social and political issues in play.