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Spike Lee's 'Chiraq' Films 'Pivotal' Scene in Ward of His Biggest Critic

By Sam Cholke | June 8, 2015 4:50pm

Nearly 500 extras filmed a pivotal scene on Monday of Spike Lee's "Chiraq," a title Ald. Burns (4th) objects to. [DNAinfo/Sam Cholke]

HYDE PARK — Director Spike Lee shot the "pivotal scene" of his film “Chiraq” on Monday in the ward of his most outspoken critic, Ald. Will Burns (4th).

More than 500 extras all dressed in white were sworn to secrecy and packed into the General Jones Armory, 5200 S. Cottage Grove Ave., on Monday morning for filming.

The exact plot of Lee’s film remains a mystery — some speculate it’s a musical comedy about women withholding sex to try to stop violence on the South Side, a modern “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes.

The working title, “Chiraq,” has stirred controversy, particularly in the 4th Ward, where Ald. Will Burns said the title points to an outsider again interested in highlighting the violence on the South Side over all else.

“South Siders and West Siders already walk around with a massive chip on their shoulders,” Burns said in April, when Lee was seeking $3 million in state tax subsidies for the film.

“There’s a sense the media only comes to cover dead bodies and not the positive things that happen every day,” Burns said. “And why is this guy from New York coming to do a movie about Chicago?”

Burns was not available to comment on Monday, but his office said his position remained the same, that he opposes the title and believes the state should not provide tax benefits, but has no criticism of the still-unknown story of the film.

On the set Monday, extras wouldn’t say a word about what was being filmed. Many were from the neighborhood and said they were afraid they would lose their spot in the movie if they gave the plot away.

Staff said the scene being shot on Monday and Tuesday was the “pivotal scene” of the movie and required 500 extras dressed in white.

More than 200 of the extras leaned against the west wall of the armory in the shade on Monday waiting to be called in, while production staff worked on costumes among the white trailers parked behind Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St.

On the east side of the armory, Chicago police officers hired to work security on their day off waved traffic by as what appeared to be actors dressed as Chicago police took a break nearby.

Though the open doors of the armory are big enough to drive a tank through, one could only catch a glimpse of a large crowd in white. It was unclear whether their movements were scripted or if the cameras were even rolling, before guys from the lighting crew came up to jokingly ask for money for the media to take pictures.

Production staff said filming would wrap Wednesday, and it was unlikely the crew would return to shoot in the 4th Ward.

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