History made as Spike Lee 62, becomes the first black filmmaker to preside over the Cannes film festival jury.
The Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing director after hearing the news said he was “shocked, happy, surprised and proud”, at the same time.
Lee has premiered seven films at the festival, with his 2018 movie BlacKkKlansman receiving wide acclaim.
His appointment follows criticism of the Oscars nominations for ignoring actors and directors of colour.
Nineteen of the 20 acting nominees this year are white – the highest number since the #OscarsSoWhite protests of 2015 and 2016, of which Lee was a vocal supporter.
The filmmaker refused to attend the 2016 Oscars ceremony, prompting some other filmmakers and actors to follow. Three years down the line, he won his first cosmetician Oscar for best-adeated screenplay.
In a statement after receiving the good news, Lee said his “biggest blessings… have happened out of nowhere”.
“I’m honoured to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named president of the Cannes jury and of the main film festival.
“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,” he added.
While Cannes film festival’s official statement said Lee’s work had “brought the questions and contentious issues of the times to contemporary cinema” and acknowledged that many of his films had achieved cult status.
“Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever. Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas,” it added.
“Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up. What kind of president of the jury will he be? Find out in Cannes!”
The excited film director will be awarded an honorary Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement.