Spike Lee heads the nine-member jury that includes Tahar Rahim, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Song Kang-ho among others,
Spike Lee heads the nine-member jury that includes Tahar Rahim, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Song Kang-ho among others,

Cannes Film Festival 2021: Jury president Spike Lee hopes 'Blacks will stop being hunted down like animals'

  • Spike Lee, who chairs this year's jury at Cannes, is the first ever Black to be so honoured. He also figures in the festival poster, another first.
PUBLISHED ON JUL 07, 2021 12:01 PM IST

American actor-writer-director-producer Spike Lee is making history at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, which began on Tuesday with Leo Carax's English-language Annette, after having been cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spike, who chairs this year's jury, is the first ever Black to be so honoured. Not just this, but he also figures in the festival poster, another first. No other jury president has ever been on the poster, which is considered a collector's item.

The closest a moviemaker came to being on the poster was Hong Kong's Wong Kar-wai, whose In the Mood For Love, an iconic work,was seen on the poster.

Spike, who heads the nine-member jury that includes Tahar Rahim, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Song Kang-ho, is also famous for his outspokenness. On Tuesday at Cannes, he said he hoped “the time had come that Black people will stop being hunted down like animals”. He was speaking at the traditional jury press conference.

A poster from Cannes featuring Spike Lee.
A poster from Cannes featuring Spike Lee.

Questioned about his 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, which shows in one of the scenes a black youth (Radio Raheem) being shot dead by the police, Spike answered without mincing words: “I wrote it in 1988. When you see brother Eric Garner, when you see King George Floyd murdered, lynched, I think of the black youth, Radio Raheem; and you would think and hope that 30 m...f.. years later, that Black people stop being hunted down like animals.”

Spike, in an boldly unmistakable sign of symbolism, wore a cap with 1619 inscribed on it. The date marked the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia. The American director also lambasted Donald Trump and others, and when a reporter questioned him about the anti-LGBT laws in Georgia, Spike quipped: “This world is run by gangsters: Agent Orange [Donald Trump], there’s a guy in Brazil and Putin. That’s it: they’re gangsters. They have no morals, no scruples. That’s the world we live in. We have to speak out against gangsters like that.”

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As expected, the question on the festival's continuing uneasy relationship with Netflix and other streaming platforms came up at the press conference. The powerful French cinema lobby has been against including any OTT titles in the festival unless these were first released theatrically in the country. The streaming giants have not agreed to this.

Spike, whose Da 5 Bloods opened on Netflix in June 2020, averred that he did not see “streaming a threat to cinema...Cinema and streaming platforms can coexist. At one time, there was a thinking that TV was going to kill cinema. (It did not). This stuff is not new. It’s all a cycle.”

The festival will run till July 17.

(Written by Gautaman Bhaskaran)

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