The Atlanta-born, Shelton Jackson Lee, better known as “Spike” (a nickname his mother gave him), is no stranger to controversy. From his Nike commercials as Jordan enthusiast, Mars Blackmon, to his public rifts with Reggie Miller at Knicks games, and his directed assortment of “Spike Lee Joints,” he’s always set out to prove an emphatic point. In particular, Lee’s movies have always done an effective job of depicting urban life, race relations, poverty, and conveying a deeper awareness about the hidden truths that reside within the various, American, social classes. Whether the critics love or hate his work, an emotional discharge usually doesn’t occur until after his films have hit the big screen. His latest project, however, seems to be treading different waters.
Since Spike’s film, “Do the Right Thing,” was nominated for an Academy Award in 1990, arguably none of his other critically acclaimed films have been as highly anticipated as his upcoming feature, “Chiraq.” The title comes from a term that has uprooted within the communities of Chicago over the past couple of years and is used to compare the violence and murders of inner city Chicago, to the on-going state of war in Iraq. In fact, it has been said that alarmingly, on average, 6 people a day are shot in Chicago. Despite the validity of these statistics, some Chicago residents, like Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are not happy about the message that this might send to the world about their city. In particular, the mayor has voiced his displeasure with the very name, “Chiraq.”
Although Lee and his team have not divulged much information about the film, it is rumored that the project will focus on issues involving Englewood, one of the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago. Spike has made mention in previous statements that he wants to bring more awareness to “black-on-black violence,” and his goal is to “help save lives.” Also, at a press conference in Chicago this past Thursday, Spike had something to say… “A lot of things have been said about this film by people who know nothing about the film.” Following that point, “We thought it was appropriate that we say what the narrative is — the filmmakers, the people doing this — not people who are judging from afar and, again, don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
Whether Spike remains tight-lipped for the sake of the film’s integrity or to generate more intrigue, a healthy buzz about a very real issue continues to gain traction. Part of that buzz may have something to do with John Cusack’s presence at the press conference, and also more rumors that stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Piven, and Chicago native and rapper, Common, are playing significant roles in the movie. In Thursday’s press conference, Lee also expressed, “Everything I have done has led up to this film.”
Glean what you will from the rumors and speculation, but perhaps we should all heed his final bit of advice from the press conference, “Wait until the movie comes out. You don’t like it, you don’t like, but wait [until you] see it first.”