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Spike Lee Makes History as Cannes Film Festival 2020 Jury President

"I'm honored to be the first person of the African diaspora to be named President of the Cannes jury," Lee said in a statement.

Spike Lee'BlacKkKlansman' photocall, 71st Cannes Film Festival, France - 15 May 2018

Spike Lee

James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

Academy Award-winning director Spike Lee has been named jury president for the 73rd annual Cannes Film Festival, taking place May 12-23, 2020. The announcement was made by the festival on Tuesday morning in Paris. This makes Spike Lee not only the first African-American to serve as jury president for the storied festival, but also the first person from the African diaspora, as Lee championed in his statement out of the festival.

“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 said. “It started way back in 1986 — my first feature film ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ which won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Directors’ Fortnight. The next joint was in 1989 — “Do the Right Thing,” an Official Selection in Competition. And I don’t have the time nor space to write about the cinematic explosion that jumped off, still relative to this, 30 years later,” Lee said.

In all, Lee has had seven films premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, including “Jungle Fever” (1991), “Girl 6” (1996), “Summer of Sam” (1999), “Ten Minutes Older” (2002), and “BlacKkKlansman” (2018), which won him the Grand Prix. For that film, Cannes served as a launching pad that took Lee all the way to the Oscars in 2019, where he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. “In closing I’m honored to be the first person of the African diaspora to be named President of the Cannes Jury and of a main film festival,” Lee said.

“At 62, the filmmaker, who is also a screenwriter, actor, editor and producer, has made numerous films that have become cult objects, and he brought the questions and contentious issues of the times to contemporary cinema. But he’s never lost sight of the public, setting out to raise their awareness of his causes in film after film,” the festival said in a statement. “Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever. Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas. Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up. What kind of President of the Jury will he be? Find out in Cannes!”

Spike Lee will succeed Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose jury, in 2019, awarded the Palme d’Or to Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” now the first South Korean film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

The official selection for Cannes 2020 and the rest of the jury will be announced in mid-April this year.

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