Despite not being from Chicago or having done much work here, Spike Lee has nevertheless maintained a provocative, mostly basketball-based relationship with our fair city.
To that end, the wonderful shots Spike offered of then-still standing Cabrini Green and the then-still new United Center at the beginning of his great He Got Game did a lot to further frame Chicago as one of the main outposts of Basketball U.S.A.
In a scheduled return to filming here, the Brooklyn-based auteur stands to go much deeper while this time exploring another one of America’s great obsessions — indiscriminate violence.
Announced this week, Lee’s next planned film has been branded with the name “Chi-Raq,” that oh-so over-evocative nickname for Chicago that fills most of its populace with shame while emboldening those among us who really don’t have much to be proud of beyond surviving in a tough town.
It’s still way too early to know with what context Lee will imbue his portrait of the American metropolis that has been most associated with gun violence over the past several years — nothing production-wise has been solidified, only casting choices have been thrown about, mostly making use of our city’s latter-day cross-over musical stars — but Lee has been reported to have spent time on the ground in Chicago talking directly to people in South Side neighborhoods whose lives have been effected by violence.
If Lee is currently preparing a script dealing with the issues of violence in Chicago, given his history of work that has only deepened appreciation for the struggle of black people to live lives unimpeded in America, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a movie called “Chi-Raq” that winds up showing just how misguided we’ve been to allow such a term to find footing for an American city while shaming any number of policies and social impediments that could bring sections of an American city anywhere close to the environment of a war zone.
You can argue against the title — though people were pretty salty about the title “black-ish” too before even seeing a second of that gem of a sitcom — but a title of an artistic work that’s yet to be produced is too much of a straw-man for me to use up time on. Lee’s recent output and his using more of his carnival barker side to get by instead of his honest-to-goodness creative skills could be reason to worry about the project too.
Personally, upon first hearing of the project I’ve hoped that it was a documentary along the lines of his work in post-Katrina New Orleans — it still may be, actually — but even if it is a work based in fiction and only inspired by reality we still stand to see an unprecedented deconstruction of society’s ills through the eyes of one of today’s most celebrated directors, splashed on the canvas that is our beautiful yet complicated city — feel free to boycott it based off one word, but I’ma be there.
Lee will likely reveal more of what’s to become “Chi-Raq” at his upcoming “An Evening of Music, Film & Wine with Spike Lee,” which will take place as part of this year’s CIMMFest on April 18th at City Winery. Buy tickets here.
Rahm Re-Elected; Jon Stewart Trolls Chicago
So…Rahm Emanuel really is the mayor still, huh?
Depending on your outlook on the future of Chicago (or how many Chuy Garcia signs you put up) that knowing inquiry fills one up with a certain amount of dread.
Rahm likely stands as the most unpopular rubber-stamped politician in the nation right now. Most mayors would take an 11 point re-election win as a definite mandate, but one thing that will stand to get overlooked in the national storyline of the Emanuel-Garcia street fight is that it was a first of its kind here, it was the first run-off, the first time Chicago even bothered to really allow a challenge to its current strong-armed Democratic Party wheeler-dealer.
As tempting as it was for many to vote Garcia in February to set the table for this unprecedented run-off campaign, he just didn’t offer enough to make most of the city want to switch directions upstream. You have to know, this city has invested so much in the Clinton-Obama political infrastructure, enough to where a by-product like Emanuel is assured at least two terms in city hall — the money and goodwill we provided to those better politicians was only to be thrown back in Chicago’s face at this moment of deliberation and uncertainty of direction for the future.
Sure, we could have got money back for schools or influence exerted for economic development in our most depressed areas, but hey at least our leader is still a pop culture magnet, right?
It’s a sucky prospect but it doesn’t mean that Chicago is without potential heroes to come. Garcia himself remains a powerful insurgent who’s place in this city’s politics should remain relevant in spite of the little chance he has of being its top executive.
And more will come, more who will follow the example of wanting to form true bonds between the disparate sections of Chicago and who no longer will only invest in its tourist-attracting core while ignoring the outer neighborhoods that mistakenly only get recognized as hotbeds for violence and corruption.
Maybe even Rahm can be one of those people. Survival can change a man. In the meantime we’ll just have to keep looking like yokels who don’t know what’s best for ourselves while the most vigilant continue to keep flames under our celebrity mayor’s backside.
There’s a good side and a bad side to having a mayor people recognize widely outside the city limits — Jon Stewart reminds us of that, he needs to chill on the pizza though.
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