Black film mogul and director Spike Lee will be presiding over the jury at the 74th running of the Cannes Film Festival, some 35 years after one of his own early films, “She’s Gotta Have It” had premiered there. Other Spike Lee joints that were shown at Cannes include “Do the Right Thing” in 1989 and “BlacKkKlansman” in 2018.
Lee’s selection as the first Black president at Cannes signals the heightened awareness of racism and the Black Lives Matter movement that has swept the world since the highly publicized suffocation of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in early 2020.
According to reports, Lee was slated to assume the head honcho role at Cannes for its August run last August, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Festival is scheduled for July 6-17 amid growing concerns that Europe may be experiencing a resurgence of the virus. Speculation abounds that some aspects of the Festival may be moving online this year.
In its official announcement this week, Cannes organizers said that Lee was being “loyal to his commitments” in supporting the festival on its reincarnation in 2021, calling him “one of the greatest directors of his generation, as well as a screenwriter, actor, editor, and producer.” The announcement acknowledged that “for 30 years, the tireless Spike Lee has been an astute chronicler of the questionings of his time, with a resolutely contemporary approach that’s never without a dash of levity and entertainment.”
Accepting his role as jury president, Lee tweeted: “Way back in 1986, my very first film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ played [at Cannes] and it was my introduction to the world of cinema, so Cannes will always have a deep, deep spot in my heart.” He added, “I have a special place in my heart for Paris, for France and for the Cannes Film Festival… Book my flight!”
For their part, Festival organizers were confident that Lee was “doing the right thing” by accepting ther offer. “Throughout the months of uncertainty we’ve just been through, Spike Lee has never stopped encouraging us,” said festival president Pierre Lescure.