Cannes Film Fest 1989: Year 42–Spike Lee’s Denied Top Honor for Do the Right Thing

Spike Lee still feels that he was unfairly denied the top honor of the Cannes Film Fest, the Palme d’Or, for Do the Right Thing in 1989, when the winner was Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies and videotape.

“Look, me and Steven are cool, have always been cool. But that thing was commandeered by Wim Wenders,” Lee says. “He said Mookie (played by Lee himself) was not a heroic character.”

Wenders remembers it differently. “He said he’d be waiting for me in an alley with a baseball bat,” the filmmaker says of Lee. “Well, he should have been waiting for the whole jury because it wasn’t my decision. The film simply didn’t have the support of the jury. It wasn’t that it isn’t a good film, it is. He just had the bad luck to be in such a great year. With not just sex, lies, and videotape but also Cinema Paradiso, An Angel at My Table and Black Rain. I had sleepless nights over our decision. With Spike, I’m still sad that he took it so personally.”

After Do the Right Thing, Lee was back in Cannes Fest. Jungle Fever played in competition in 1991, Girl 6 screened out of competition in 1996, and Summer of Sam screened at the Directors Fortnight sidebar in 1999.