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Amazon Studios moves into feature films with Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq’

Lee is already facing criticism for comparing Chicago to Iraq.


Feliks Garcia


Posted on Jul 16, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 8:37 am CDT

Amazon Studios will move beyond original TV shows into new terrain: a feature film.

The company announced Wednesday that Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq will be the first Amazon Original Movie. The film, starring Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, and Angela Bassett, will address issues of race and gun violence in inner-city Chicago, issues often overlooked in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking.

Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour) and writer/director Kevin Willmott (C.S.A: Confederate States of America) are writing Chi-Raq and Lee is directing.

Ted Hope, Head of Motion Picture Production at Amazon Studios, expressed unbridled enthusiasm for Lee. “Spike Lee is one of the most distinct and visionary filmmakers of our time,” he said. “It would be impossible to find a better filmmaker with whom to launch our studio.”

Chi-Raq will be released in theaters in December to qualify for awards season, and Amazon Prime members will get a first look at the film once it’s out.

Spike Lee recently faced controversy for the film, which likens the violence in Chicago to war zones in Iraq. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel criticized the film’s potential denigration of residents of Englewood.

“I told [Lee] … that there are very good people that live in Englewood who are raising their family,” Emanuel said.

Lee had one thing to say to critics: “Wait until the movie comes out. You don’t like it, you don’t like [it]. But wait, see it first.”

Screengrab via CelebTV/YouTube

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*First Published: Jul 16, 2015, 7:48 am CDT