Spike Lee is bringing his cinematic talent to help Amazon cross into uncharted territory. For the first time, Amazon Studios will release an original film at the end of this year, Chiraq. The film will hit the silver screen just in time for next year’s Oscars, and Lee and Amazon executives are hopeful the film will be considered in the 2016 awards race.
The musical comedy is set in Englewood, a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Chiraq stars Teyonah Parris (Mad Men), a young woman who goes on a sexual strike protest against Black-on-Black gun violence. Lee’s film is reportedly based on the Greek comedy, Lysistrata.
“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 Chiraq. This new Spike Lee joint will be something very special. We have assembled a stellar cast.”
Wesley Snipes, Nick Cannon, Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Hudson also star in the upcoming film. Lee wrote the screenplay and Ninth Street’s Kevin Wilmott serves as the film’s director.
As buzz about the film circulated Chicago, some leaders of the Windy City took a few critiques of the title due to its blend of “Chicago” and “Iraq.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he was less than pleased of the movie’s title and expressed his thoughts to Lee.
“I was clear that I was not happy about the title,” he told the Chicago Tribune, “I told him also that there are very good people that live in Englewood… and there’s a lot of positive things happening.”
Lee has not made any indication of a desire to change the title, which is identified as a slang term to compare the violence of the city to the war in Iraq.
“We couldn’t have come up with a better film to launch our division in every which way. Chiraq makes no apologies and dares to shock,” Amazon’s movie production chief Ted Hope said, “Spike Lee is one of the most distinct and visionary filmmakers of our time.”
Unlike its streaming competitor Netflix, Amazon Studios will release its films in theaters before allowing them to be available via streaming. In a competitive move, Netflix will premiere Beasts of No Nation, written and directed by Cary Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba online the same day the film debuts in theaters. The film will also be released in time for next year’s Oscars.
At this time there is no set release date for Chiraq, but the film will premiere sometime in December.