Amazon Studios has announced plans for its first movie release, teaming up with award-winning director Spike Lee for his forthcoming joint Chi-Raq.

The media giant confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter that Lee’s next major movie will be the first original movie content for the studio, which is looking to expand from streaming into the territory that Netflix has started to occupy. The e-commerce giant announced at the start of 2015 that it was planning to make 12 movies a year.

Amazon unveiled the news on its so-called ‘Amazon Prime Day’, Wednesday July 15th, also the 20th anniversary of the compay. “Chi-Raq will shed light on the serious, but often overlooked issue of violence in inner city Chicago,” a statement by the studio said.

Spike LeeSpike Lee's 'Chi-Raq' has been announced as Amazon Studios' first original movie content

“Spike Lee is one of the most distinct and visionary filmmakers of our time,” added Ted Hope, the head of motion picture production. “It would be impossible to find a better filmmaker with whom to launch our studio.”

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Chi-Raq has courted controversy among residents of Chicago, as its title refers to the nickname bestowed upon the city because of its reputation for violent crime. Indeed, gun violence in the inner city will be a major theme of the movie, which is said to be loosely based on the classic Greek play ‘Lysistrata’.

The movie’s cast is headed up by Teyonah Parris, who portrays a woman protesting gun violence by going on a ‘sex strike’. Backing her up is an impressive list of actors, including Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson and, if rumours are to be believed, Kanye West.

“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,” Lee himself said in a separate reaction.

The plan was originally to premiere Chi-Raq at the Cannes Film Festival 2016, but insiders have hinted to the Hollywood Reporter that the Amazon hook-up has pushed the project forwards to a December release, making it a contender for the Oscars.

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