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Spike Lee to Head Cannes Film Festival Jury

The Cannes Film festival seems to be “doing the right thing.” Award-winning director Spike Lee will head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, which takes place May 12-23.

Cannes Film Festival president Pierre Lescure and director Thierry Frémaux said Lee’s perspective is “more valuable than ever.”

A First Time for Everything

Lee becomes the first African-American to serve as jury president in the festival’s 73-year history. In his statement, Lee expressed how he was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time.

In this life I have lived, my biggest blessings have been when they arrived unexpected, when they happened out of nowhere.”

He concluded his statement by saying that he is 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.

Spike and Cannes

Spike Lee is no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival. Several of his films, including Do the Right Thing, have screened at the festival. After a 22-year absence from Cannes, he returned with BlackKklansman in 2018. The film earned him the festival’s second-highest honor, the Grand Prix.

The announcement of Lee as jury president comes after top award shows received criticism for their lack of diversity within the nominees. Many called out the 2020 Oscar nominations for having mainly white nominees and zero female directors in the Best Director category.

He’s also had his fair share of time standing up for equality. Throughout his career, Lee used his voice to speak on political issues and inequality. His films focus on race relations, poverty and other political issues. Furthermore, he refused to attend the 2016 Academy Awards due to its lack of diversity; 2016 became the second year that #OscarsSoWhite appeared on social media.

View this post on Instagram

#OscarsSoWhite… Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)

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Lee succeeds Alejandro González Iñárritu as jury president. In 2019, Iñárritu’s jury awarded Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite with the Palme d’Or, which is now the first South Korean film to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

In addition to jury president, Lee will receive an honorary Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement.