CITY HALL — A South Side alderman said Wednesday that if Spike Lee wants to make a movie called "Chiraq," he should do so without any state film subsidies.
Ald. Will Burns (4th) submitted a resolution at Wednesday's City Council meeting asking that the Illinois Film Office reject a $3 million tax credit for the maverick filmmaker if he intends to shoot here and call his movie "Chiraq."
"If he wants to name the movie 'Chiraq' and film it in the City of Chicago, he should be able to get the permits for that, he should be able to do it," Burns said. "But we shouldn't give him money as taxpayers to brand a part of the city as Iraq. That doesn't make sense."
According to Burns, by statute one of the reasons the state film office is capable of granting a tax credit for movie production is because it's presumed to have "a positive economic impact" on the area where it's being shot.
"By calling a whole part of the City of Chicago 'Chiraq,' that'll make it harder to bring economic development to those communities, to bring jobs to those communities," Burns said. He insisted that, just the opposite, it would have "a negative economic impact."
He called it "another barrier" to economic improvement.
Burns called the title an "insult" to city residents, and said "people don't want their neighborhoods insulted," adding, "It's especially insulting in that it comes from a New Yorker."
Burns said he learned of the $3 million tax credit in a briefing with Lee's film company about the movie. He said the $3 million investment on a film budgeted at up to $18 million gave the state "a seat at the table" on production issues, including the title.
He said he brought that topic up with Lee, whose reaction was "stone-faced."
Lyndsey Walters, spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, said Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks had yet to formally apply for the tax credit.
Burns said that if the withdrawn tax credit prompted Lee to film elsewhere or go on to another project, "That's not my problem."
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