The American director Spike Lee has been selected to chair the main Palme d’Or jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
He’s the first black film-maker to serve as the president of the Cannes jury and his appointment comes at a time when the film industry more widely has been struggling to recognise the achievements of film-makers from minority communities. The announcement comes a day after the Oscar nominations recognised only one black actor among the twenty acting nominations – a week earlier, all of the nominations in the main acting categories for the BAFTAs were white.
Lee first visited Cannes in 1986 with She’s Gotta Have It, which played in the Director’s Fortnight Strand. Three years later, he was nominated for the Palme d’Or for the first time with Do The Right Thing. Most recently, BlacKkKlansman won him the jury’s Grand Prix in 2018, before going on to win him a screenwriting Oscar last year.
In a statement, the Cannes Film Festival’s Board of Directors said Spike Lee’s perspective was 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. Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up.”
Lee said that when he was invited to lead the jury, he was “shocked, happy, surprised and proud, all at the same time.” He said he was honoured to be the “first person of the African disaspora to be named President of the Cannes Jury and of a main film festival.”