Back in January, Amazon launched Amazon Original Movies, aimed at producing and/or acquiring small-budget films that would be given theatrical releases alongside “early window distribution” through Amazon Prime. Today, they’ve announced their first feature under the banner: Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq.
“Spike Lee is one of the most distinct and visionary filmmakers of our time,” Head of Motion Picture Production at Amazon Studios Ted Hope said in a press release announcing the acquisition. “It would be impossible to find a better filmmaker with whom to launch our studio. He has a unique voice, a distinct eye, and he tackles important subjects with humor and heart, pointing to solutions and not exploiting the problems. Chi-Raq may be his greatest, and definitely his boldest film yet — everything about it is distinctive.”
The release notes that the name Chi-Raq is a “working title,” so there’s a chance the controversial phrasing may not make it to theaters. Either way, the movie, which wrapped filming just last week, is expected to open in select theaters later this year.
Lee’s latest film stars Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Teyonah Parris, D.B. Sweeney, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris, and Angela Bassett, with John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson also appearing. Rumor has it that Dave Chappelle could have a role. Written by Lee and Kevin Willmott, “Chi-Raq will shed light on the serious, but often overlooked issue of violence in inner city Chicago.”
“I’m honored to be part of the film that will launch Amazon Studios and to tell a story that is so important,” Lee said in a statement. “Please don’t be fooled by the title of Chi-Raq, this new Spike Lee joint will be something very special. We have assembled a stellar cast.”