Spike Lee tells Cannes Black people still ‘hunted down like animals’

The 74th Cannes Film Festival - Photocall of the jury
The 74th Cannes Film Festival - Photocall of the jury - Cannes, France, July 6, 20121. Spike Lee, Jury President of the 74th Cannes Film Festival poses. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

July 6, 2021

(Note: Paragraph 3 contains language that may be offensive to some readers)

CANNES, France (Reuters) – Director Spike Lee on Tuesday denounced the state of race relations in the United States 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 see king George Floyd, murdered, lynched… you would think, you would hope that thirty-some motherfucking 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.

(Reporting by Sarah White and Michaela Cabera, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)