Cannes: Spike Lee makes marks as President

CANNES, FRANCE. May 15, 2018: Spike Lee at the photocall for “Blackkklansman” at the 71st Festival de Cannes

After two years of life without the magical, 100-year-old film festival that takes place on the French Riviera- due to the pandemic – The Festival de Cannes is finally back in full swing and the cinephiles running the festival already have a lot to say.

Both jury president Spike Lee and creative director Thierry Fremaux spoke in advocacy for issues they are passionate about, at the expense of their adversary.

Jury president Lee, the first Black jury president in Cannes’ history, finally made his way to the Croisette after last year’s festival was canceled. He’ll lead a jury that includes the likes of Melanie Laurent, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tahar Rahim and Song Kang-ho, and he boasted that  Cannes is the “world’s greatest film festival.” Lee has good reason to think this as the festival launched his career with the successes of She’s Gotta Have It and Do The Right Thing.

While Lee is known for his brilliant filmmaking, he’s also always been in the spotlight for his passion to “do the right thing” in matters of civil rights and politics. Lee was asked about former President Trump, about the influence of Netflix on cinema, and even his memories of watching his beloved New York Knicks during the festival, saying that in the ’90s “when the Knicks were good” he flew from Nice, France, to New York to watch them play.

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As per usual, when it came to the subject of human rights and Trump, Lee had blunt words, “this world is run by gangsters. Agent Orange, the guy in Brazil and Putin. They’re gonna do whatever they wanna do. They have no morals, no scruples. That’s the world we live in. We have to speak out against gangsters like that.”

In regards to streaming platforms like Netflix, where he released his last film Da 5 Bloods,  he was in favor of these newer outlets, saying film and streaming services can “co-exist,” and it was “not long ago that it was felt TV would kill the movies for good.”

Not everyone at Cannes is quite so open-minded when it comes to streaming platforms. The drama between Cannes’ artistic director Thierry Frémaux and Netflix has been well documented, and in a press conference ahead of the festival on Monday, Frémaux added more fuel to the fire when he challenged journalists and targeted the new era of streaming to “name a single auteur director who has been discovered and emerged by a streaming platform.”

“Not yet,” Frémaux argued. As a passionate lover of the area of cinema he went on to advocate that, “we just celebrated last year the 125 years of the invention of cinema. So platforms, it’s, let’s say, 10 years? So let’s see, in more than one century, if we will celebrate those platforms. And for now, the platforms, they are they are recruiting only filmmakers coming from cinema,” in this instance citing names like Martin Scorsese and David Fincher who have made the jump to streaming. “I’m saying that because we — the Cannes Film Festival, the other festivals – our mission is to discover, is to put new names on the maps. And it’s what we do. So I’m not sure that even Netflix or whoever, they can skip the Cannes Film Festival.”

This cinema traditionalist displayed an intense passion for the preservation of film and his festival of Cannes. Frémaux also reiterated Cannes’ rule this year that any films that play at the festival must open in French cinemas. And while a platform like Amazon cooperated with its upcoming release of “Annette,” he wondered why Netflix could not do the same.

“It’s not a very difficult rule to abide by. But Netflix does not want to abide by that rule, it doesn’t want to come out of competition — I invited them — and we talk a lot together as friends. I hope I’ll convince them one day.”

There’s already an old-world versus a new era war and it’s only Day One…