VIDEO: Thousands turn out for ‘Chiraq’ casting call

By Aisha I. Jefferson

More than 3,500 people started arriving as early as 4:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Sabina Church in the Auburn Gresham community for a chance at fame as an extra in Spike Lee’s new film “Chiraq.” 

Country Club resident Monique Keene, a spoke word artist, said she isn’t nervous about making the cut.

“I’m excited because I know whatever God has for me is for me. So, if it comes to pass, I’m right there waiting on it,” Keene said.

Lee is reportedly centering “Chiraq” on a woman’s quest to end gang violence in Chicago. It will be a musical comedy based on the Greek comedy “Lysistrata.”

Samuel L. Jackson and Chicago area natives Jennifer Hudson and John Cusack will star in it. Rumors are circulating that another Chicago native, Kanye West, may contribute to the film’s soundtrack.

“When was the last time you ever heard of major movie holding open casting in the heart of the African American community? I think it’s a great thing,” said Pastor Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church, adding Lee, who he’s known for 10 years, asked if he could hold the casting at the South Side parish.

Despite Lee’s intentions, many local residents, including Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, frown upon the film’s title.

Ameena Matthews, CEO of Pause for Peace, anti-violence organization, applauds Lee’s efforts to make a film about the violence in the city, dislikes the name “Chiraq.”

“That name – it actually came from a white man that said, ‘Our young people in Chicago are terrorists and the violence is like Iraq. So I feel that it is appropriate to call our city Chiraq.’ I tend to differ. We are not a third world country,” Matthews said.

Lee hasn’t said whether or not he’ll change the film’s name, but several Illinois residents hope to land a spot in his film.
Photo at top: Casting call for extras in Spike Lee’s movie “Chiraq” at St. Sabina on Chicago’s South Side.

Photo at top: Casting call for extras in Spike Lee’s movie “Chiraq” at St. Sabina on Chicago’s South Side.