Celebrated American filmmaker Spike Lee will preside over the 73rd Cannes Film Festival‘s jury, making him the first black man to preside over this year’s esteemed group of movie professionals that will eventually bestow the coveted Palme d’Or prize.
The 62-year-old Oscar-winning Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X helmer has long had a presence at Cannes, with three of his movies — Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, and BlacKkKlansman — debuting as part of the festival’s competitive lineup.
“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 lengthy 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.”
“In closing,” he continued before signing the note from “Da People’s Republic of Brooklyn, New York,” in reference to his beloved residence, “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.”
Cannes has long established itself the most prestigious film festival in the world, serving as a launching pad for respected international and domestic features — many of which go on to receive Oscar nominations the following year. Recently, Lee’s own BlacKkKlansman went on to win the director his first Oscar (for Best Adapted Screenplay) after world-premiering at the French festival, while Alejandro G. Iñárritu‘s jury presented Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite — which received six Oscar nominations Monday morning — with the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, just last year.
The rest of the 2020 Cannes jury will be announced in mid-April, according to the festival’s announcement.