“Show me where he made a criticism about the mayor,” Lee said of Williams-Bennett, who serves as Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff and director of public engagement. “I think your findings will be surprising. He has not criticized the mayor.”
In a string of recent tweets, Chance called Chi-Raq “goofy,” “exploitive” and “problematic,” and echoed sentiments that a lifelong New Yorker like Lee was the wrong filmmaker to tackle the topic of violence in Chicago.
“You don’t do any work with the children of Chicago, You don’t live here, you’ve never watched someone die here,” Chance tweeted. “Don’t tell me to be calm.” (Chance later clarified that he wasn’t criticizing Lee specifically, but “the film and the ideas it conveys.”)
Chi-Raq has come under fire from both critics and Chicagoans for turning the city’s issues with violence into a musical-comedy (the film is based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, an Ancient Greek comedy in which women withhold sex from soldiers in order to end the Peloponnesian War). During his chat with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Lee also said that Mayor Emanuel told him during preproduction that he was “not happy” about the film.
“He was trying to convince me to change the title of Chi-Raq,” Lee recalled. “First of all, I didn’t come up with the title. Local Chicago rappers came up with the title. And his reasons for changing the title were troubling to me. He said the title Chi-Raq would hurt tourism and economic development.”
Emanuel has faced sharp criticism for his handling of Chicago’s rampant gun violence throughout his tenure as mayor. Both Chi-Raq and Lee’s comments arrive amidst increased calls for his resignation in the wake of several videos showing fatal police shootings and displays of brutality, as well as a subsequent Justice Department investigation of the Chicago Police Department.