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Aldermen Pressure Spike Lee To Change 'Chiraq' Movie Title

By Jim Bochnowski in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 15, 2015 9:05PM

Spike Lee at a ceremony in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Spike Lee's divisive new film Chiraq is currently filming in the city, but Alderman Will Burns has hatched a plan to put financial pressure on the director to, at the very least, change the name of the movie.

Lee has received a great deal of criticism for the movie, which aims to shed a light on gang violence in the city. He has repeatedly insisted that the movie will portray the city in a positive light, telling reporters in May that the film was being criticized "by people who know nothing about this film, a lot of people have opinions about the so called title of the film, but again, know nothing about the film," according to DNAinfo.

Illinois has been generous with its tax breaks for film productions, with a recent Sun-Times report estimating that taxpayers have lost over $200 million in tax credits for TV shows, movies and commercials shot in the state. With that knowledge in mind, Burns had a hearing scheduled this morning for the City Council Finance Committee to consider a non-binding resolution asking the state to withhold tax breaks from Lee's production company, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Suddenly, however, the hearing was quietly canceled, with Burns telling the Tribune it would be held "at a later date." He also clarified that he wanted to hold hearings because, "There are folks who want to talk about the movie title and they should be given an opportunity to do so." The Tribune helpfully points out that the state may not be able to block tax credits on the basis of the film's name, as it can only determine eligibility based on economic impact, diversity and the filmmaker's plans to take part in training and recruitment programs.

This news comes on the heels of Alderman David Moore denying a permit for St. Sabina Church's annual block party, co-sponsored by Lee, because of the film's title, according to ABC. Alderman Moore eventually relented, and the celebration took place as usual, with Lee in attendance.

Actor John Cusack also sat down recently with Larry King on Larry King Now to discuss his take on the controversy around the film and its name. Cusack plays a Catholic priest based on the South Side of Chicago in the film.

Until the film's shooting is finished, expect more and more political pressure to get the title changed with no concrete results. Unless, of course, the guy who trademarked the term "Chiraq" wins his lawsuit against Lee.