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‘Chi-Raq’ Is Apparently a Working Title + Angela Bassett Is a Cast Member + Ted Hope Says Its Spike’s “Boldest Film” + December Oscar-Qualifying Run Eyed

'Chi-Raq' Is Apparently a Working Title + Angela Bassett Is a Cast Member + Ted Hope Says Its Spike's "Boldest Film" + December Oscar-Qualifying Run Eyed

UPDATE: Spike Lee just shared, via social media, that “Chi-Raq” will get an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run in December, with Amazon releasing it. Apparently a 2016 Cannes Film Festival debut was eyed, according to a link to an exclusive he gave to The Hollywood Reporter, but “Lee and Amazon are so 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.”

My original post published earlier this morning, follows below.

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We already now that Amazon Studios is producing Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” which the press release I received this morning says is 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.

Something else I didn’t know, also revealed in the press release (although it looks like I’m just late, and the news has been out) is that Angela Bassett is a member of the film’s cast, as are Harry Lennix, and Steve Harris, who all join actors we already reported on with certainty – Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Teyonah Parris, D.B. Sweeney, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.

In what could be her breakout-starring role, Teyonah Parris is playing the central lead character.

The film was shot entirely in Chicago and wrapped last week.

Written by Spike Lee and writer/director Kevin Willmott (“C.S.A.: Confederate States Of America”), “Chi-Raq” will shed light on “the serious, but often overlooked issue of violence in inner city Chicago.”

“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.

No ETA on “Chi-Raq” (working title) yet; but I’d expect an early 2016 debut, likely on the film festival circuit. Maybe Sundance to start.

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