Spike Lee will receive the Directors Guild of America’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Motion Picture Direction, the guild announced Wednesday. The Award will be presented at the 74th Annual DGA Awards on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Lee, 64, is the director of more than 30 film and TV projects in a variety of genres, many of which challenge and subvert notions of politics, race, war, masculinity, music and culture. His best known titles include 1989’s “Do the Right Thing,” 1992’s “Malcolm X,” 1996’s documentary “Four Little Girls,” 2002’s “25th Hour,” 2006’s “Inside Man,” and 2018’s “BlacKkKlansman,” for which he won a screenplay Oscar. His directorial debut came in 1986 with the comedy “She’s Gotta Have It,” and his most recent film, “Da 5 Bloods,” was released in 2020.
“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,” DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter said in a statement.
“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. And while he is no stranger to huge commercial success, he is also the beating heart of independent film. 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,” Glatter’s statement concluded.
Lee’s honor is prestigious and historic. The honor is not given annually and in the guild’s 86-year history only 35 directors have ever received the honor. No Black director has ever received the award, which until 23 years ago was named “the D.W. Griffith Award.” (Silent film director Griffith’s racist views, often noted by Lee, spurred the name change, which was approved unanimously in 1999 by the guild’s national board.)
Lee will join the ranks of filmmakers like Frank Capra (1959), Alfred Hitchcock (1968), Orson Welles (1984), Billy Wilder (1985), Steven Spielberg (2000), Martin Scorsese (2003), Clint Eastwood (2005) and Miloš Forman (2013), to receive the DGA’s award for lifetime achievement. The most recent recipient was Ridley Scott in 2017.
In addition to his Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman,” the New York based Lee was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2015 and last year was the honoree at the 46th Chaplin Award Gala in New York. He has also received two career DGA nominations, for “BlacKkKlansman” and for his direction of the TV version of “David Byrne’s American Utopia.”