After awarding “BlacKkKlansman” the Cannes Film Festival’s coveted Grand Prix just now, the festival’s jury led by Cate Blanchett revealed why Spike Lee’s film about an “American crisis” spoke to such a diverse group in so meaningful a way.
“Obviously, this is an international film festival,” said Blanchett at a press conference following the ceremony. “We talked a lot about when a film transcends the limitations of its culture. Spike has made a film that is quintessentially about an American crisis and yet all of us felt connected to it. That, we felt, really elevated its importance even more.”
Fellow jury member Ava DuVernay offered her thoughts as well. “As an African American filmmaker, I was completely taken by the film,” she said. “I’ve imbibed every film he’s ever made. It was startling and stunning. But when I walked into the jury room, I decided to listen to my jury members. It was a robust dialogue…emotion and energy from these artists from all over the world.” DuVernay noted the different gender and sexual identities of the group, but added that “we were united by the love of cinema … There were questions specifically about the African-American experience and this moment we’re in, in America.”
For fellow juror Léa Seydoux, “it was fundamental to us that we award that film. The world is changing and we believe that the film stunningly portrays these changes, and we felt it was absolutely necessary to give it a prize. It’s a great film that conveys a message.”
Blanchett also addressed Jean-Luc Godard, whose “The Image Book” won an unprecedented Special Palme d’Or. “We saw the film and we could not stop talking about it,” she said. “We had a very short amount of time. We tried to meet once a day. It lingered with us, confused, provoked, angered and excited us.
“It actually began to influence our perspective on the festival. We felt that as an artist who is continuing to experiment and be alive to the art of cinema we felt that this film was profoundly important. It’s not an honorary Palme d’Or. Of course it’s in the context of his body of work as an artist.”