The director has titled his latest project after a controversial nickname given to the city in recent years, an amalgamation of the name Chicago with that of war-torn Iraq, due to the rise of violent crime in the region.

Lee's film will focus on the troubled neighbourhood of Englewood, and the director headed to the area this week (beg11May15) to address the concerns of local residents before filming starts next month (Jun15).

On Thursday (14May15), he held a press conference at a local church in the nearby Auburn Gresham neighbourhood along with Chicago native Cusack, who is to appear in the film, and Lee faced members of action group Purpose Over Pain, who held up photos of their children who have been killed in Chicago's gun wars.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Lee told the crowd, "I love Chicago. Wait 'til the movie comes out - (if) you don't like it, you don't like it. But see it first!... I've made many trips to Chicago in preparation for this film... And Tuesday morning... I was at a funeral (in Chicago). One of the members of our production team, his brother was shot down in cold blood... We're here for peace. We have to stop this...

"To me, an artist... they hold a mirror up to what is happening in the world. And they do that with no fear. Because if you have fear, how are you going to tell the truth?... This is not a joke. This is not a game. This is real life and death and that's the way we're going to approach this... In fact, everything I've done has led up to this film."

Cusack added, "I am 100 per cent sure that the great city of Chicago can survive a film of conscience - just like it did Transformers (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which was filmed in the city)... I love my city of Chicago - all of Chicago. And I would never do anything to hurt it. I'm very proud to be in this film... There really is no controversy around this film except for a bit of a manufactured political controversy... Spike called me up and told me what he was up to. We met and he looked me in the eye and said, 'Johnny, the only reason to do this film is to help save lives'."

Lee recently met with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a vocal critic of the film, who urged the director to change the title.