The organisers of the Cannes Film Festival have invited the director Spike Lee to preside over the jury at this year’s delayed event, due to be held in July rather than May, because of the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid crisis.
He’ll be the first black film-maker to oversee the awards jury at the world’s most prestigious film festival, at a time when black representation remains at the forefront of people’s minds, both within the film industry – where the Golden Globe organisers have been criticised for a lack of black members while BAFTA and the Oscars have been praised for their diverse slate of awards nominees – and beyond, where the Black Lives Matter movement remains dominant in public discourse.
Lee was given the historic honour for the 2020 festival, which was cancelled because of the pandemic. “Cannes will always have a deep spot in my heart,” he said in a video message, released after his reappointment.
“Throughout the months of uncertainty we’ve just been through, Spike Lee has never stopped encouraging us,” the festival’s president Pierre Lescure said in a statement. “We could not have hoped for a more powerful personality to chart our troubled times.”
The festival’s other key player, Thierry Frémaux, said of Lee, “His enthusiasm and passion for cinema has given us a huge boost of energy to prepare the great Festival that everybody has been awaiting for.”
Lee is no stranger to Cannes, having premiered seven films on the Croisette. He first visited 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 the following year.