*Spike Lee, the first Black president of the Cannes Film Festival jury, spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon in the south of France, touching on such topics as Netflix, George Floyd, his beloved New York Knicks and more.
As jury president, Lee will lead the nine artists of artists and actors tasked with voting on the prestigious Palm d’Or, or top jury prize.
Chaz Ebert, widow of film critic Roger Ebert, recalled at the press conference how her late husband was upset that Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” didn’t win the top jury prize in 1989.
“I want you to know that I have a very special place in my heart for Roger, and you know that,” Lee said. “That was not a popular decision what he felt about the film. A lot of people felt that, especially American press, said this [would] start race riots all over America.”
“A couple weeks ago was the 32nd anniversary of the film,” Lee continued. “I wrote it in 1988. When you see brother Eric Garner, when you see king George Floyd murdered, lynched. I think of Radio Raheem. And you think and hope that 30 mother-f**king years later, Black people would stop being hunted down like animals. So, I’m glad to be here, though.”
Lee also said at the presser: “Cannes is the world’s greatest film festival. No disrespecting other film festivals.” The filmmaker has been attending the event since 1986, when his first film “She’s Gotta Have It” debuted at the festival. “One of my most memorable Cannes had nothing to do with film,” Lee said. “It was back in the 1990s, when the New York Knicks were good. We were in the NBA finals. I flew from Nice to New York for a game and came back.” He took a beat. “The Knicks lost that game.”
Asked about Netflix, which has been banned from participating in competition because its movies don’t play in French movie theaters, Lee defended the streaming platform. His latest film “Da 5 Bloods” premiered on Netflix last year.
“Cinema and screening platforms can coexist,” Lee said. “At one time, there was a thinking that TV was going to kill cinema. This stuff is not new. It’s all cycle. And it’s well documented that ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ when it appeared at film festivals, was a launching pad for my career.”
Watch Lee’s Cannes Film Festival press conference below: