Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Spike Lee becomes first black president of Cannes festival jury

Spike Lee becomes first black president of Cannes festival jury

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
American director Spike Lee is the first person of black descent to preside at Cannes, the world’s biggest film festival. Afp

Spike Lee becomes first black president of Cannes festival jury

American director Spike Lee was named president of this year’s Cannes film festival jury on Tuesday, becoming the first black head of the panel.

The maker of Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing is the first person of black African descent to preside at the world’s biggest film festival, which is held in May on the French Riviera.

Lee, 62, said he was “shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time” to make history.

The Cannes veteran has premiered seven of his films at the festival, with his debut movie She’s Gotta Have It causing a sensation in 1986 when it won the youth prize at Directors’ Fortnight.

His appointment comes as activists criticised the Oscars on Monday for ignoring actors and directors of colour, with no nominations for the acclaimed performances of Awkwafina in the Chinese-American drama The Farewell and Lupita Nyong’o in the horror movie Us.

Lee – who showed his last film BlacKkKlansman at Cannes two years ago – said “my biggest blessings... have happened out of nowhere.

“I’m honoured to be the first person of the African diaspora [USA] to be named president of the Cannes jury and of a main film festival.”

Lee will also be awarded a Palme d’Or, the festival’s top award, for lifetime achievement.

In a written statement from his home in Da People’s Republic Of Brooklyn, New York, Lee said Cannes had changed his life.

“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,” he added.

Lee also thanked “the great people of France who have supported my film career throughout four decades. I will always treasure this special relationship.”

Only one Asian, the Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai, has ever led the Cannes jury in its 73-year history.

French actress Isabelle Adjani, whose father was Algerian, became the first person of African descent to lead the jury in 1997.

The world’s top film festivals have faced fierce criticism for their lack of diversity in recent years.

Cannes and its rival Venice have faced growing scrutiny, particularly for the lack of female directors in their main competitions, even as they have chosen gender-balanced juries.

More than 80 actresses and woman filmmakers led by then jury president Cate Blanchett staged a red carpet protest at Cannes for equality in the film industry in 2018.

Lee was vocal in his support for the women at the time.

“Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever,” festival director Thierry Fremaux said.

“Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas.

“Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up,” he added.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • PM urges precaution amid virus outbreak

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday called on all Cambodians to bump up precautions to avoid contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has already killed more than 50 people in China. The prime minister told the public to remain calm but alert about the possibility of

  • Gov’t slams NGO over 2019 corruption report

    The government on Thursday slammed a report that described the Kingdom as highly corrupt. Government spokesperson Phay Siphan dismissed the latest Transparency International (TI) report as “just an advertisement of NGOs to promote their own interests”. Released on Thursday, the report puts Cambodia near the

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • App to connect farmers to millions

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has soft-launched a mobile app that connects farmers with potential buyers and gives them access to critical market information. The ministry’s Agriculture Marketing Office chief Meach Yady said the ‘CamAgriMarket’ app gives farmers a platform to showcase

  • Gov’t ups security to block virus

    With the new coronavirus claiming its 17th life in China, the Cambodian Ministry of Health on Thursday said it is taking measures to ensure the disease does not enter the Kingdom, including inspecting all flights from Wuhan City, the outbreak’s epicentre. Ministry secretary of