34 years after his debut feature, She’s Gotta Have It, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, iconic filmmaker Spike Lee is set to return to France as the president of this year’s jury. As reported by IndieWire, when Lee presides over the 73rd Cannes Film Festival jury this May, he’ll do as as the first Black jury president in the festival’s history. In an official statement, Lee—who has debuted seven films at Cannes over the course of his career—said he’s “honored to be the first person of the African diaspora” to serve as president of the Cannes jury:
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. It started way back in 1986 — my first feature film ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ which won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Directors’ Fortnight. The next joint was in 1989 — “Do the Right Thing,” an Official Selection in Competition. And I don’t have the time nor space to write about the cinematic explosion that jumped off, still relative to this, 30 years later. In closing, I’m honored to be the first person of the African diaspora to be named President of the Cannes Jury and of a main film festival.
The prolific filmmaker has a distinct voice and perspective, which should make this year’s jury deliberations particularly interesting—a notion echoed in the festival’s own official statement on Lee’s selection:
At 62, the filmmaker, who is also a screenwriter, actor, editor and producer, has made numerous films that have become cult objects, and he brought the questions and contentious issues of the times to contemporary cinema. But he’s never lost sight of the public, setting out to raise their awareness of his causes in film after film. Spike Lee’s perspective is 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.
Fellow filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu presided over last year’s jury, which awarded the prestigious Palme d’Or to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. During yesterday’s announcement of the 2020 Oscar nominees, the critically-acclaimed thriller received six nods and became the first South Korean film to be nominated for Best Picture.