Spike Lee Defends 'Chiraq' Film: "Let's Not Put the Loss of Property and Profit Over Human Life"

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Spike Lee

Joined by John Cusack, the filmmaker — whose latest project title references Chicago's gun violence and war-torn Iraq — responded to critics worried about the city's business and tourism.

Spike Lee is making a film called Chiraq, a term recently applied to various violence-plagued neighborhoods and references Chicago's gun violence and war-torn Iraq. And no, he doesn't care how that film title negatively affects Chicago's tourism prospects.

On Thursday at Chicago's St. Sabina Church, he responded to critics worried about the city's business and tourism, stressing that the film's intent is not to defame the city but expose the realities of children dying in multiple areas.

"We felt it was appropriate that we say what the narrative is; the filmmakers, the people doing this, not the people just judging from afar and, again, don't know what the hell they're talking about.” he said, according to CBS Chicago. “A lot of things have been said about this film by people who know nothing about the film. A lot of people have opinions about the so-called title of the film. Again, they know nothing about the film."

The filmmaker plans to set the Amazon Studios project in Englewood, and met with a displeased Chicago mayor Rahm Emnauel last month to discuss shooting the film in the Illinois city. Still, Lee noted that the film is necessary — especially after Wednesday's local reports of 14 shootings.

"If you do not tell the truth, then you must have fear," Lee explained. "We have to stop the madness, this is insane. Don't go for 'Okey-doke.' Don't go for it. This is nothing about Chicago losing tourism. Come on, please. Come on. Stop with the rudy-poop.  This film is not about Chicago losing business. ...  Let’s not put the loss of property and profit over human life."

He continued, according to the Chicago Tribune, "Way way back when I made 'Do the Right Thing,' there were people who said this film would cause riots all across America, that black people were going to run amok. ... They wrote a whole bunch of things. But those people ended up being on the wrong side of history. And the same is going to happen in Chicago. They are going look stupid and end up on the wrong side of history.  We're here for peace. We have to stop this."

Lee reassured that "everything I've done has led up to this film," which is reportedly a modern-day adaptation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, an ancient Greek comedy in which women collectively withhold sex until their men end a war.

"This is not a joke. This is not a game. This is real life and death and that's the way we're going to approach this," he said without directly confirming the plot reports, or any other film details. "That's the way I've approached all my films — I mean, people acting like you've never seen none if my films! Like, I just got pulled off the street. I've been doing this since 1986."

Lee was joined by actor John Cusack, Rev. Michael Pfleger, and dozens of parents whose children were victims of violence.

"Spike called me up and told me what he was up to. We met, and he looked me in eye, and he said, ‘Johnny, the only reason to do this film is to help save lives,” said Cusack, a Chicago native. “I love my city of Chicago — all of Chicago — and I would never do anything to hurt it. ... [The film] could easily be [set in] any urban American city where poverty and violence and desperation are so ever-present."

Cusack added, "I am 100 percent sure that the great city of Chicago can survive a film of conscience, just like it did Transformers."

Twitter: @cashleelee