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Credit: Solwazi Afi Olusola photo

The Directors Guild of America announced that they’ll be bestowing legendary filmmaker Spike Lee with its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Motion Picture Direction, at their 2022 awards next month. This distinction makes him the first Black director, and 36th overall director, to receive this prestigious award in the guild’s 86-year history. DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter announced the news on Jan. 19.

“Icon. Trailblazer. Visionary. Spike Lee has changed the face of cinema, and there is no single word that encapsulates his significance to the craft of directing,” Linka Glatter’s statement read. “From his groundbreaking ‘Do the Right Thing,’ ‘BlacKkKlansman, and everything in-between—to his signature ‘double dolly’ shot, Spike is an innovator on so many levels. His bold and passionate storytelling over the past three decades has masterfully entertained, as it held a stark mirror to our society and culture.”

This award recognizes extraordinary efforts in the art of cinema. Back in 2002, Lee received a DGA honor for “distinguished contributions to our nation’s culture in support of filmmaking.” In 2019 he received a DGA award nomination in the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film category for his critically acclaimed “BlacKkKlansman” project, which broadcast on FBO; and received the same award again in 2021 for the variety/talk/news/sports specials category for “American Utopia.”

Spike and his “40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks” movie company initially broke through with 1986’s “She’s Gotta Have It,” and have since then directed cultural classics like “School Daze” (1988), “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990), “Jungle Fever” (1991), “Malcolm X” (1992), “Crooklyn” (1994), “Inside Man” (2006), and “Chi-Raq” (2015).

They’ve also produced informative documentaries: “4 Little Girls” (1997), “A Huey P. Newton Story” (2001), “When The Levees Broke” (2006).
In recent years Lee’s been creating projects which stream on Netflix “Da 5 Bloods” (2020), the series “She’s Gotta Have It,” the film version of “Rodney King,” and the Stefon Bristol sci-fi film “See You Yesterday.”

Last summer he directed and produced a four-part documentary essay titled “NYC EPICENTERS 9/11➔2021½” which streamed on HBO Max.

Throughout the 1990s, he produced several memorable television commercials featuring his alter ego, Mars Blackman and fellow Brooklynite, and NBA great, Michael Jordan. Lee’s also known for bringing to visual life the music tracks of such renowned artists as Branford Marsalis, Anita Baker, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Prince, Tracy Chapman, and Public Enemy.

Lee is a five-time Oscar nominee and earned an Honorary Oscar in 2015 for his “lifetime achievement and contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences.” In 2019, he won his first Academy Award in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, for BlacKKKlansman.

Over the past few years, he’s served as a tenured professor of film and artistic director at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he’s mentally nourishing young, aspiring movie directors and producers.

“While he is no stranger to huge commercial success, he is also the beating heart of independent film,” Glatter concluded. “Even as countless filmmakers call Spike their mentor and inspiration, he continues to devote his time to teaching future generations how to make their mark. We are thrilled to present Spike with the DGA’s highest honor.”

The 74th DGA Awards ceremony will be held in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

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