Spike Lee has become the first black filmmaker to preside over the Cannes film festival jury, making history in the process.
The iconic director who has given us both Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing to name a few was quoted as saying he was “shocked, happy, surprised and proud”.
Lee has a long history with the Cannes Film Festival, premiering seven of his films at the event. Lee’s latest release, BlacKkKlansman received wide acclaim after debuting at the festival.
His appointment is a welcome relief from the current situation looming over the 92nd Academy Awards. The Oscars nominations this year were widely panned for overlooking actors and directors of colour.
When you consider that out of the 20 available acting nominees, 19 of them are white, there does seem to be a problem. The figure is only beaten by the #OscarsSoWhite protests of 2015 and 2016, of which Lee was an avid supporter and even boycotted the 2016 event.
Three years later he would return to pick up his first Academy Award, grabbing the Oscar for best adapted screenplay (BlacKkKlansman).
Following the announcement of his Cannes role, the 62-year-old filmmaker said in a statement that his “biggest blessings… have happened out of nowhere”.
“I’m honoured to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named president of the Cannes jury and of a main film festival. To me, the Cannes film festival (besides being the most important film festival in the world – no disrespect to anybody) has had a great impact on my film career.”
“You could easily say Cannes changed the trajectory of who I became in world cinema,” he added.
Cannes Film Festival’s official statement offered an equally glowing appraisal of Lee, “Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever. Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas,” it read.
“Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up. What kind of president of the jury will he be? Find out in Cannes!”