‘Chi-Raq’ mayor D.B. Sweeney: ‘Spike Lee is a one-man, African-American jobs program’

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Filmmakers Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott, along with “Chi-Raq” cast members Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Harry Lennix, D.B. Sweeney and John Cusask — as well as the Rev. Michael Pfleger, credited as the film’s “spiritual advisor” — were in Chicago today for a press conference to discuss the film, set for theatrical release Dec. 4.

Sweeney, who in the film stars as the sex-starved fictional Chicago Mayor McCloud, had this to say about the project and Chicago’s very real Mayor Emanuel:

Let’s not get distracted by whether [Mayor Emanuel] liked the title or not. That’s not important, in my opinion. I thought it was extremely silly. A lot of people asked me if was playing Rahm. Spike never said to me, ‘We’re doing this to get at Rahm or anything like that.’ But I thought it was incredibly silly that we had politicians criticizing Spike Lee coming for their town to make a movie. This guy is a one-man, African-American jobs program. He got more jobs for more young brothers and sisters on the South Side last summer than any alderman I know about. These [aldermen] were threatening to withhold the film incentives that every city needs to have. These incentives are so important to towns. You can ask people in Albuquerque, [New Mexico]. ‘Breaking Bad’ went off the air two years ago and people are flying to Albuquerque, which is probably the worst city in America of any note, and they go on ‘Breaking Bad’ tours. They go around to see see where they made crystal meth. So there’s hotel rooms. There’s lunches being bought. … So I assure you, two years from now, somebody or maybe a lot of people are gonna fly in to Chicago buy a hotel room, go down to the South Side to see the [National Guard] armory we filmed in, and along the way they’re gonna buy lunch, spend money. There’s an economic stimulus that comes from films and TV that cannot be under-estimated. I would ask all the aldermen in question to go see the movie. Judging a book by its cover, it’s sort the first thing they teach you in school [that] it’s sort of a bad idea.

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