Acclaimed film director Spike Lee has been appointed to a prestigious post, becoming the first black person named to lead the jury of the Cannes Film Festival in the event’s 73-year history, the AP reports.
“Festival organizers hope Lee will ‘shake things up’ among the world’s cinema elite at the festival, which runs May 12-23,” the AP reports. “And anti-racism campaigners hope Lee’s appointment wakes up the French cultural world to persistent discrimination and the damaging stereotypes it perpetuates.”
The piece quotes Lee saying he was “honored to be the first person of the African diaspora” selected for the prestigious position.
“Festival organizer Thierry Fremaux said Lee is the first black president of any major film festival, calling the decision a ‘message of universality.'” the AP adds. “Speaking on France’s RTL radio, Fremaux said it wasn’t a political decision, but noted that black artists are underrepresented in the cinema world.”
A number of Lee’s movies first screened at Cannes, including “Do the Right Thing” in 1989, and his “BlacKkKlansman” was honored at the festival two years ago.
“Without explicitly mentioning Lee’s career-long fight against racism or other political views, the festival said Lee’s ‘perspective is more valuable than ever’ and that ‘Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas,'” the report adds.
Other jury members will be announced in April.