Spike Lee will become the first black filmmaker to head the Cannes Film Festival jury this spring. "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," which happens to be "the most important film festival in the world," Lee said in a statement, per Deadline, adding he was "shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time." Seven of the director's films have premiered at Cannes, including 2018's BlacKkKlansman, which received a standing ovation.
"You could easily say Cannes changed the trajectory of who I became in world cinema," said Lee, who will also receive the festival's highest prize, the Palme d'Or for lifetime achievement. Festival heads said 62-year-old Lee had "brought the questions and contentious issues of the times to contemporary cinema" and his "perspective is more valuable than ever." The BBC notes that French actress Isabelle Adjani was the first person of African descent to lead the jury in 1997. Her father hailed from Algeria. (Read more Spike Lee stories.)