The event on September 9 will be held at Alice Tully Hall, the main venue for FLC’s New York Film Festival, which will be back there next month for its 59th edition. It will adhere to “a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with state and city medical experts,” according to a press release. New York City this week became the first U.S. city to implement a Covid-19 vaccine mandate, though it won’t take full effect until September 13.
Much like Lee’s appointment as head of the Cannes jury in 2020, which was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic, his Chaplin honor was also previously announced. The evening is the most important fundraiser of the year for Film at Lincoln Center, which has been hit hard by Covid, as have all arts and culture organizations.
On tap for the gala is a conversation with Lee and other tributes. In the runup to the event, Film at Lincoln Center is presenting free, outdoor screenings of some of the filmmaker’s work. Mo’ Better Blues will screen on Governors Island on Friday and Do the Right Thing will play in Damrosch Park on August 10.
“We are proud to present Spike Lee with the Chaplin Award, a much-deserved honor and a long-overdue celebration,” said FLC Executive Director Lesli Klainberg. “It’s hard to conceive of the New York film community without Spike. For four decades he has been making films that speak to our vibrant city and to the larger world, and his work remains as vital as ever.”
Lee’s 40-year career dates back to Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads a 1983 selection at New Directors/New Films, a joint festival venture between FLC and the Museum of Modern Art. He has remained prolific in recent years, with BlacKkKlansman earning him the Grand Prix in Cannes in 2018 and his first Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. His Netflix feature Da 5 Bloods in 2020 won wide acclaim and netted an Oscar nomination for Terence Blanchard’s score.
Previously, Lee had been nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Do the Right Thing and Best Documentary Feature for 4 Little Girls. He also received an Honorary Oscar in 2015 for lifetime achievement.
Lee has maintained a steady output in documentary and series, with a body of work including When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts and Netflix’s original series She’s Gotta Have It, an update of his film. Lee is also known for directing a number of enduring commercials as well as short films for artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Public Enemy, Branford Marsalis and Miles Davis.
The Chaplin gala began in 1972 when it honored Charlie Chaplin, who returned to the U.S. from exile to accept the honor. Since then, the Chaplin Award has been presented to a roster of notables, including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Helen Mirren.
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