Spike Lee is about to make history as the first African-American to serve as jury president for the Cannes Film Festival. Lee had seven films premiere at the fest in the past, and will now preside over the 73rd annual Cannes Film Festival taking place from May 12-23, 2020. In other, not-so-great film festival news: the China Independent Film Festival has announced that it’s shuttering because it’s become “impossible” to continue in the country’s current political climate.
Cannes has named Spike Lee as its festival president for the year, and that’s pretty damn cool. This will mark the first time an African-American has served in this capacity, and Lee is more than qualified since he’s one of the best filmmakers working today and premiered seven of his films at the fest. The director released a lengthy statement about his new role, which you can read below:
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.
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.
It started way back in 1986 – my first feature film She’s Gotta Have It, which won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director’s 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.
Then, Jungle Fever, 1991 – Official Selection in Competition, Girl 6, 1996 – Official Selection Out of Competition, Summer Of Sam, 1999 – Director’s Fortnight, Ten Minutes Older, 2002 – Official Selection in Un Certain Regard and then BlacKkKlansman, 2018 – Official Selection in Competition where it won the Grand Prix, which became the launching pad for the world theatrical release which led to my Academy Award for screenplay.
So if you were keeping score that’s 7 Spike Joints to be chosen.
In closing I’m honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named President of the Cannes Jury and of a main film festival
The Lee family sincerely thanks the Festival de Cannes, Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux and the great people of France who have supported my film career throughout four decades. I will always treasure this special relationship.
Regarding Lee’s appointment, Cannes said: “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.”
This is cool news, but on the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the announcement that the China Independent Film Festival (CIFF) is shutting. Per Variety, the fest is halting because they find it’s impossible to continue in a climate of censorship. “We believe that given the current local organizational circumstances, it has already become impossible to organize a film festival that truly has a purely independent spirit and is also effective,” CIFF said in a statement. The festival was established in 2003 in Nanjing, and highlighted topics such as “homosexuality or political history deemed sensitive or inappropriate by the ruling Communist Party.”
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