Spike Lee Becomes the First Black Filmmaker to Head Cannes Film Festival Jury

Spike Lee Becomes the First Black Filmmaker to Head Cannes Film Festival Jury

Denis Makarenko

photo credit: Denis Makarenko // Shutterstock

Spike Lee is making history as the first black filmmaker to be President of the Jury for the Cannes Film Festival in their 73-year history.

In a statement released by the festival, Lee said he “was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time.” “In this life I have lived, my biggest blessings have been when they arrived unexpected,” he added.

Lee’s first appearance at the first festival was in 1986 with his debut film, “She’s Gotta Have It”, for which he won the Youth Prize for best young director. Three years later, the film appeared in the festival’s main competition.Even though the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, went to another film, many felt Lee deserved it.

Larry Rohter of the New York Times, said the film was received so warmly “that some enthusiastic French critics have already begun talking about Mr. Lee as a ‘black Woody Allen,’ perhaps because of his sense of humor and his loving treatment of New York City.”

Though he had returned to the festival many times, Iin 2018, Lee was close to taking home that top prize with his film, BlacKKKlansman, but walked away with the second highest honor, the Grand Prix.

“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,” Lee said in his statement. “You could easily say Cannes changed the trajectory of who I became in world cinema.”

Pierre Lescure, the festival’s president, and Thierry Frémaux, its artistic director, praised Lee in a joint statement. “Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever,” they said. “Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas. Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up.”

The festival runs from May 12 to May 23.

Written by Clarke Jones

Source: The New York Times