Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee might not be in the awards season mix this year — after finally winning his first Oscar last year for scripting “BlacKkKlansman,” he’s deserving of a break — but the indelible New Yorker will be on hand to accept at least one huge honor in 2020. Film at Lincoln Center has announced that Lee will be honored at the 46th Chaplin Award Gala on Monday, April 27, 2020. “We are delighted to honor Spike Lee, an original and iconic New York filmmaker,” said Ann Tenenbaum, Film at Lincoln Center’s Board Chairwoman, in an official statement. “It is thrilling to welcome his bold voice into the pantheon of artists who have received the Chaplin Award.”
The Chaplin Award Gala is the organization’s most important fundraising event of the year and all proceeds benefit the organization in its mission to support the art and craft of cinema. The annual gala began in 1972 when it honored Charlie Chaplin, who returned to the U.S. from exile to accept the commendation. Since then, the Chaplin Award has been presented to many of the film industry’s most notable talents, including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Helen Mirren.
“It’s hard to conceive of the New York film community without Spike Lee,” added FLC Executive Director Lesli Klainberg in a statement. “For four decades he has been making challenging films that speak to our vibrant city and to the larger world, and his work remains as vital as ever. We feel lucky to have had a special relationship with Lee at Film at Lincoln Center, showing his very first film at the 1983 New Directors/New Films festival, and welcoming his films to our theaters in the years since. Just last year, coinciding with his appearance on the cover of Film Comment, Lee presented ‘BlacKkKlansman’ to a sold-out crowd in our Walter Reade Theater. We are honored to pay tribute to this great artist and true cinephile.”
Film at Lincoln Center will also present a selected retrospective of Lee’s films alongside the gala. “Few filmmakers have amassed a body of work as consistently vital, moving, provocative, and uncompromising as that of Spike Lee,” said FLC Director of Programming Dennis Lim. “From his 1983 student film ‘Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads’ to last year’s ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ his films spare no quarter in capturing American society and the state of race relations. They compel us to look at our country, its culture, and its history anew.”
Lee’s career spans 30 years and includes such seminal features as “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever,” “Malcolm X,” “Crooklyn,” “Clockers,” “Girl 6,” “Get on the Bus,” “He Got Game,” “Summer of Sam,” “Bamboozled,” “25th Hour,” “She Hate Me,” “Inside Man,” “Miracle at St. Anna,” “Red Hook Summer,” “Oldboy,” “Chi-Raq,” and “BlacKkKlansman,” which won him the Grand Prix at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and his first Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Lee was previously a two-time Oscar nominee (“Do the Right Thing” for Best Original Screenplay and “4 Little Girls” for Best Documentary Feature), and was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2015 for his lifetime achievement and contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences.
He is a graduate of Morehouse College and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he is a tenured Professor of Film and Artistic Director. Lee’s Production Company 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks is based in Da Republic of Brooklyn, NY.