Spike Lee to be first black head of Cannes film festival jury


PARIS, Jan 14, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – American director Spike Lee was named
president of this year’s Cannes film festival jury on Tuesday, becoming the
first black head of the panel.

The maker of “Malcolm X” and “Do the Right Thing” is the first person of
black African descent to preside at the world’s biggest film festival, which
is held in May on the French Riviera.

Lee, 62, said he was “shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same
time” to make history.

The Cannes veteran has premiered seven of his films at the festival, with
his debut movie “She’s Gotta Have It” causing a sensation in 1986 when it won
the youth prize at Directors’ Fortnight.

His appointment comes as activists criticised the Oscars on Monday for
ignoring actors and directors of colour, with no nominations for the
acclaimed performances of Awkwafina in the Chinese-American drama “The
Farewell” and Lupita Nyong’o in the horror movie “Us”.

Lee — who showed his last film “BlacKkKlansman” at Cannes two years ago –
– said “my 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.”

Lee will also be awarded a Palme d’Or, the festival’s top award, for
lifetime achievement.

In a written statement from his home in “Da People’s Republic Of Brooklyn,
New York”, Lee said Cannes had changed his life.

“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.

– Lack of diversity –

Lee also thanked “the great people of France who have supported my film
career throughout four decades. I will always treasure this special

Only one Asian, the Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai, has ever led the Cannes
jury in its 73-year history.

French actress Isabelle Adjani, whose father was Algerian, became the
first person of African descent to lead the jury in 1997.

The world’s top film festivals have faced fierce criticism for their lack
of diversity in recent years.

Cannes and its rival Venice have faced growing scrutiny, particularly for
the lack of female directors in their main competitions, even as they have
chosen gender-balanced juries.

More than 80 actresses and woman filmmakers led by then jury president
Cate Blanchett staged a red carpet protest at Cannes for equality in the film
industry in 2018.

Lee was vocal in his support for the women at the time.

“Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever,” festival director
Thierry Fremaux said.

“Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who
awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas.

“Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up,” he added.

Last year the jury was led by “Babel” and “The Revenant” director
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the first Mexican and only the second Latin
American to preside over the festival.

The winning film, Korean Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite”, has since become a
runaway hit, winning the Golden Globe for best foreign film and six Oscar