Spike Lee Named Cannes Film Festival Jury President

He becomes the first black person in the festival's history to head the jury

Spike Lee
Spike Lee attends 2017 American Black Film Festival.
Aaron Davidson/WireImage
By Bonnie Stiernberg / January 14, 2020 9:59 am

Spike Lee has been named head of this year’s jury at the Cannes Film Festival, succeeding Alejandro G. Iñárritu and becoming the first black person to lead to the jury in the festival’s 73-year history.

“In this life I have lived … my biggest blessings have been when they arrived unexpected, when they happened out of nowhere. When I got the call that I was offered the opportunity to be President of Cannes Jury for 2020, I was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time,” Lee said in a statement. “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.”

Lee’s first feature-length film She’s Gotta Have It won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director’s Fortnight in 1986. In 1989, Do the Right Thing competed for the Palme d’Or but lost to Stephen Soderbergh’s sex, lies and videotape, and Lee stirred up controversy when he argued that his movie was robbed and spoke out against jury head Wim Wenders, saying, “Wim Wenders had better watch out cause I’m waiting for his ass. Somewhere deep in my closet I have a Louisville Slugger bat with Wenders’ name on it.” (In 2013, he admitted those comments were “immature” and “stupid.”) In 2018, his film BlacKkKlansman won the Grand Prix.

The rest of the Cannes jury will be announced in mid-April, and the Cannes Film Festival will take place May 12-23.

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