Director Spike Lee has been given the British Film Institute’s highest honour – a fellowship.
Throughout his career, the filmmaker has provoked debate and inspired progress with films including Malcolm X, Do The Right Thing and the Oscar-winning BlacKkKlansman.
Now this accolade pays tribute to his four decades in the business – which has seen change, though the director has told Sky News, not enough.
“[I’ve] seen a much greater diversity in this industry in front of and behind the camera,” Lee said.
“So more stories are being told that really weren’t given a chance in the past.”
“But that’s not to say that the struggle is over, you know, it’s still not the way it should be, but a lot better than when I started way back in 1986 with She’s Gotta Have It.”
Asked about the secret of his success and longevity in the industry, Lee has a simple answer.
“The only secret of success in anything is you gotta work, gotta bust your a**e – and love what you’re doing.”
Lee is an ‘auteur’
There’s no doubt Lee’s efforts have paid off – renowned for a body of work that explores the African American experience and addresses controversial subjects, he also helped launch the careers of actors including Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne and Samuel L Jackson.
For the BFI, the director was an obvious choice for their most prestigious accolade.
“He’s an auteur,” explained the organisation’s chief executive Ben Roberts.
“I remember my first experience of a Spike Lee film was when I was 14 and it was Do The Right Thing, and it sort of exploded for me as something I hadn’t seen before in terms of his stylings, what he was talking about, the energy, the passion in his filmmaking.”
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“And he’s just sustained that across such a diverse range of storytelling over the last 30 years.”
‘It’s all like a blur’
While this fellowship may be viewed by some as a lifetime achievement prize, Lee insists it’s not the right time for him to look back and reflect.
“It’s all like a blur, to be honest,” he said of his career.
“I’ve been very fortunate to really go from project to project for the last forty years, and I really have not the time nor want to take time to reflect.
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“So when that day comes, hopefully not very soon, you know, that will be the time to reflect – but I’ve got too much work to do to look back on the past.”
In receiving the honour, Lee joins a list which also includes Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, Tilda Swinton, Sir Steve McQueen, Orson Welles and Sir Ridley Scott.