The latest casualty amid the coronavirus pandemic was the Cannes Film Festival, which postponed the biggest movie event of the year, originally set to take place May 12-23. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee was set to head the jury this year as president. But now that the festival has been postponed — with a later date hoped to be set for the end of June at the earliest — the “Do the Right Thing” and “BlacKkKlansman” director has spoken out about Cannes director Thierry Frémaux’s decision to put a pin in the French film celebration.
“I agree 100% with Thierry and the Cannes Film Festival,” Lee told Variety on Thursday in the wake of the decision. “The world has changed and it’s changing every day. People are dying and France’s president has said, several times — I’m paraphrasing — ‘We are at war.’ We are in a war-like time.”
Lee added, “The stuff that we love has to take a back seat: movies, TV, sports, the NBA is a global sport, baseball. So many things have been canceled, and I agree with this move.” He’s referring to the fact that myriad entertainment events have been either postponed or canceled due to the pandemic, from movie-theater exhibition, production, and distribution, to Broadway productions, and major sporting events such as the NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and MBA baseball seasons.
However, Lee also said he would still hold up his end of the bargain and helm jury duty once Cannes sets a new date. “Let’s not forget this is the world’s biggest film festival, the world’s biggest stage for cinema and I’ll be the first black president of the jury,” he said. “So look, I can’t pretend [to know] what’s going to happen tomorrow. Everybody has to pray, get on bended knee, pray, we get out of this, find a vaccine, get back on our feet — physically, emotionally and financially worldwide. This is no joke. It’s not some movie. People are dying.”
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The filmmaker, according to the Variety interview, is also self-quarantining in Brooklyn with his family. “We’re doing whatever everybody else is trying to do — come together, love each other and just try to ride it out,” he said. “People are being laid off. People are being fired. People don’t know where their next check is going to come from, how they are going to see their children. When the schools close, who is going to take care of their children? This shit is crazy. This shit is bananas.”
Lee also took issue with President Donald Trump’s recent remarks regarding the coronavirus. “I would like to say this: I wish he would stop saying ‘the Chinese virus,’” Lee said. “The president of the United States needs to stop calling this the Chinese virus. Please stop doing that…He’s putting Asian Americans in this country in danger…Stop saying Chinese virus. There’s nobody around him to say, ‘You can’t say this anymore’? That isn’t helping at all. Hopefully his base will understand. You just can’t say that.”
Spike Lee is not only the first African American to serve as jury president for the festival, but also the first person from the African diaspora.