Amazon has released the trailer for Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq.
The first Amazon original movie is a serious statement from both the streaming service and Lee, whose film is a modern adaptation of the Greek play Lysistrata, by Aristophanes. Teyonah Paris stars as Lysistrata, who leads a group of women in protest against the ongoing violence in Chicago’s Southside – a movement that “challenges the nature of race, sex and violence in America and around the world”.
Their strategy? Deny the men access to them until the fools put down the guns.
“Welcome to Chi-Raq, land of pain, misery and strife,” declares Samuel L. Jackson’s narrator in the trailer.
The topic is certainly pertinent: while filming in Chicago from the start of June to early July, Lee says that 331 people in the city were wounded and 65 murdered.
“New York City has three times the population of Chicago; Chicago has more homicides than New York City,” he tells Chicago Magazine.
Calling Chicago the “most segregated big city in America”, Lee says that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not want the reality to be depicted on the screen, instead trying to paint the director as a villain.
“I’m not the bad guy, but that’s how he was trying to portray it. Do I have the guns? Am I the one pulling the trigger? To be honest, he’s a bully… My tactic with the mayor – any bully – is to come out swinging. I said, ‘Mayor, Your Honor, you’re gonna be on the wrong side of history.'”
“We knew it was a hot button. I didn’t make up [the term] “Chi-Raq.” It came from local Chicago rappers. But the mayor doesn’t want it to go worldwide because it’s on his watch,” he adds.
The production came up against several obstacles while shooting, which Lee attributes indirectly to the mayor, including an attempt to pass a resolution that would have made the production ineligible for state tax refunds.
Amazon’s support of the project in the face of such controversy is as much a statement as the film itself. The company has lined up deals with talents such as Spike Lee and Terry Gilliam, as it tries to position itself as a movie-making and distribution platform that can compete with Netflix, which recently entered the original feature arena with Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, another movie tackling a difficult topic.
Chi-Raq also stars Nick Cannon and John Cusack and will be released in a limited number of US cinemas by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate on Friday 4th December. It will arrive exclusively on Amazon Prime Video shortly afterwards. Exact dates for the UK release have not yet been confirmed, but the movie is expected to arrive in early 2016.
Here’s the trailer:
For more on what’s coming soon to Amazon Prime Video in the UK, including new original series The Man in the High Castle, click here.