Tuesday, 14 January 2020


Renowned American director Spike Lee will serve as president of the jury at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, scheduled to take place May 12 - 23, organizers of the event have announced.

"Spike Lee's perspective is more valuable than ever,” the festival said in a statement. “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 pioneering filmmaker, 62, responded that he was “honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named President of the Cannes Jury and of a main film festival”. He said he was “shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time”.

Spike Lee (photo: N. Goode, courtesy Cannes Film Festival)
Lee has directed and acted in films such as She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing and, more recently, BlacKkKlansman - which won the Cannes Grand Prix in 2018, when he returned to the festival after a 22-year absence.

‘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 stated. “You could easily say Cannes changed the trajectory of who I became in world cinema.”

He recalled that his relationship with Cannes “started way back in 1986”, when She's Gotta Have It (his first feature film) won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director's Fortnight section of the festival. Three years later, Do the Right Thing was an Official Selection in the Competition category.

“I don't have the time nor space to write about the cinematic explosion that jumped off, still relative to this, 30 years later,” said Lee, who in 2018 delivered a furious, expletive-laden criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump at the festival, following the screening of BlacKkKlansman - the story of a real-life African American policeman who managed to infiltrate the local Klu Klux Klan in Colorado.

Spike Lee on the set of BlacKkKlansman (courtesy of
Cannes Film Festival).
“We have a guy in the White House … who in a defining moment … was given the chance to say we’re about love and not hate, and that (expletive deleted) did not denounce the Klan,” he told journalists then.

The festival’s directors Pierre Lescure, president, and Thierry Frémaux, general delegate, said Jan. 14 they were delighted to welcome “both the artist and the man”.

Lee, who is also a screenwriter, editor and producer, has long been popular in Europe and particularly in France, where he’s praised for bringing the “questions and contentious issues of the times to contemporary cinema”, as the festival puts it.

“He’s never lost sight of the public, setting out to raise their awareness of his causes in film after film,” the festival directors stated.

Alongside members of the Cannes Jury, to be announced mid-April, Lee will present the top Palme d'or prize at the close of the 2020 festival.

He will succeed Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose jury awarded the Palme d’or to Korean director Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, which also recently won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.

Over the past years, the festival has sought to address criticism about its traditional lack of diversity, with regards to both filmmakers from the Global South and women directors. Last year, French actress and director Mati Diop became the first black woman filmmaker to be selected in the Competition category of the festival. Her film Atlantics subsequently won the Grand Prix. - SWAN

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