That’s Mr. President, to you. Spike Lee is officially in charge of overseeing the selection competition as Cannes Film Festival jury president. He succeeds Revenant director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Lee is the first black person to ever head the festival’s jury. “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,” he said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “You could easily say Cannes changed the trajectory of who I became in world cinema.” Lee’s first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It, won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Directors’ Fortnight in 1986. Most recently, his film BlacKkKlansman won the Grand Prix in 2018. In total, the 62-year-old has had seven films screen at Cannes.
With all the success (and losses) he’s seen at Cannes, Lee faces it on his own terms. He’s called out Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima for lacking black characters, made comments about actor and then-head of the National Rifle Association Charlton Heston, and just last year called out Donald Trump for not disavowing the Ku Klux Klan all at Cannes Film Festivals. In 1989, he came at Wim Wenders, the year’s jury head, for choosing Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape over his Do the Right Thing. “Wim Wenders had better watch out ’cause I’m waiting for his ass,” Lee said after the snub, per THR. “Somewhere deep in my closet, I have a Louisville Slugger bat with Wenders’s name on it.” Lee has since said “it was stupid” to react that way, but maintains that Do the Right Thing was robbed. The film industry is finally making up for the snubs. Last year, Lee won his first Oscar. He was given Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman and, presumably, all those other movies the Academy previously ignored. The rest of the jury for the Cannes Film Festival main competition will be announced in mid-April. The festival will take place May 12 to 23. Now, make way for the president.