Spike Lee set to lead Cannes Film Festival jury, first Black person in that role

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Spike Lee, who was set to lead last year’s jury for the Cannes Film Festival that was ultimately canceled by the pandemic, will preside over this year’s jury instead.

The French Riviera festival on Tuesday announced that Lee will be president of the jury for the 74th Cannes. Usually held in May, this year’s Cannes Film Festival has been delayed by the health crisis. It’s set to take place July 6-17.

Lee is the first Black person to head the Cannes jury, which selects one of cinema’s top prizes, the Palme d’Or.

Pierre Lescure, president of the festival, praised Lee for his loyalty and spirit.

Spike Lee will lead this year's Cannes Film Festival after last year's festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Throughout the months of uncertainty we’ve just been through, Spike Lee has never stopped encouraging us,” said Lescure in a statement. “This support is finally coming to fruition and we could not have hoped for a more powerful personality to chart our troubled times.”

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More:US director Spike Lee to lead Cannes film festival jury

Last year when Lee was selected to preside over the festival's jury, festival organizer Thierry Fremaux said selecting Lee wasn’t a political decision, but “a message of universality.” Speaking on France’s RTL radio last January, Fremaux noted the diverse nationalities of jury members and directors whose films are screened at Cannes.

Organizers said preparations “are in full swing” for this year’s Cannes, more details of which will be announced in coming weeks. Selections will be announced in early June.

Several of Lee’s films premiered at Cannes, including “Do the Right Thing” in 1989. In 2018, his “BlacKkKlansman” won one of the festival’s top prizes, the Grand Prix.

The most recent jury president was Mexican director Alejandro Iñárritu, and the festival’s top prize went to Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s for his Oscar-winning film “Parasite.” 

News of Lee being selected as president of the film festival comes after he faced nomination snubs from Oscars for "Da 5 Bloods." Lee did not receive a best director nomination for his Vietnam veteran drama, which was not nominated for best picture. Standout actor performances in the ensemble cast, including Delroy Lindo and the late Chadwick Boseman, were also bypassed by Academy voters. "Da 5 Bloods" was nominated for best original score.