As was announced last week, the film will get an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run in December, with Amazon releasing it. Apparently a 2016 Cannes Film Festival debut was eyed, but Lee and Amazon are very high on the project that they’re now hoping for a spot in this year’s awards race. Following a qualifying run in December, the movie would officially open after the new year.
"Chi-Raq" is said to be a "working title" – meaning, it might be called something else entirely for the film’s eventual release, which would make sense, given all the criticism Spike has faced over the use of the derogatory term, in reference to Chicago (the city at the center of the story he’s telling), as the title of his film.
The sold cast includes star Teyonah Parris, as well as Angela Bassett, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, D.B. Sweeney, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.
In what could be her breakout-starring role, Teyonah Parris is playing the central character, in a story set against the backdrop of Chicago’s gun violence, and is a modern spin on the Greek comedy "Lysistrata" – in short, the women of Greece refused to have sex with their husbands, all in an effort to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War, via the signing of a peace treaty. In Spike’s film, the story will center on a woman’s quest to end gang warfare in Chicago, likely via similar methods as used by Lysistrata; i.e., no sex for the brothas in the middle of the gang war, until the violence ends… and it all unfolds as a musical comedy.
"Spike Lee is one of the most distinct and visionary filmmakers of our time," said Ted Hope, Head of Motion Picture Production at Amazon Studios. "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."
Big words there, Mr Hope – "his greatest and definitely his boldest film" to date. I’m even more curious than ever…
"I’m honored to be part of the film that will launch Amazon Studios and to tell a story that is so important. 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," said Spike Lee.
Bob Berney, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Amazon Studios, explained, "For ‘Chi-Raq,’ and for future projects, we will collaborate with a top-tier theatrical distributor who shares our vision and passion. We will work together to craft bold and distinctive marketing and distribution approaches for all our films."
First announced in January, Amazon Original Movies is an initiative by Amazon to produce and acquire original movies for theatrical release and early window distribution exclusively for Prime members. Independent film elder statesman Ted heads creative development and production at the studio. Bob Berney recently joined the Amazon Original Movies team to lead theatrical distribution and marketing efforts and will be managing third-party distributors.
For info on attending the 13th Annual Run&Shoot Filmworks Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, visit: http://www.mvaaff.com/.