'Black people are still hunted down like animals': Spike Lee tells Cannes Film Festival

07 July 2021 - 12:49
By Reuters
Renowned film director Spike Lee.
Image: Frazer Harrison/ Getty Images Spike Lee Renowned film director Spike Lee.

Director Spike Lee on Tuesday denounced the state of race relations in the US three decades after he first shook audiences in Cannes with films on bigotry and violence, drawing parallels with the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

Lee, the first Black person to head up the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, said little had progressed since Do The Right Thing premiered on the French Riviera in 1989 — a Brooklyn-based tale of spiralling racial tensions and police brutality with a startling resonance now.

“When you see brother Eric Garner, when you seeking George Floyd, murdered, lynched... you would think, you would hope that thirty-some mother f****ng years later Black people would stop being hunted down like animals,” Lee told a news conference in Cannes, where the world's biggest cinema showcase is due to kick off.

A judge sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 22-1/2 years in prison in June for Floyd's murder during an arrest in May 2020.

Video of Chauvin kneeling on the neck of the handcuffed Floyd for more than nine minutes caused outrage around the world, and the verdict was widely seen as a landmark rebuke of the disproportionate use of police force against Black Americans.

Eric Garner was killed in a deadly chokehold by a white police officer during a 2014 arrest. His dying words, “I can't breathe” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lee's darkly funny Do The Right Thing — in which tempers fray and led to a deadly outcome over the course of boiling hot day in Brooklyn — outraged some critics when it was first released, with some claiming it would encourage riots.