On October 30, filmmaker Spike Lee will receive the coveted Lillian and Dorothy Gish Prize, which carries a reward of $300,000. Established in 1994, the award is the highest and most prestigious honor given to an artist in the United States. Past honorees include Frank Gehry, Arthur Miller, Anna Deavere Smith, Bob Dylan and Trisha Brown.
The private event will be held at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Lee’s career in film dates back to 1986 with his first full-length feature She’s Gotta Have It followed by Do the Right Thing in 1989. He has tirelessly committed his career as a filmmaker/director to creating positive images of African American people in the United States and telling Black stories that otherwise might not have been told.
His film Malcolm X garnered an Academy Award nomination for Denzel Washington as Best Actor and his documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts poignantly captured the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and won several awards including two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.
He has crossed many genres and has introduced a slew of Black actors to the screen including Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah and Halle Berry.
This year’s Gish Prize committee included committee chair Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation; David Henry Hwang, playwright; Rajendar Rov, chief curator of film at the Museum of Modern Art; and Rebecca Robertson, president and executive producer of the Park Avenue Armory.
Walker stated, “Because this is the 20th year of the Prize, the selection committee felt a particular commitment to affirming the legacy of Lillian Gish as both a great artist and in her later years a stalwart for a more just and inclusive society. We honor Spike Lee for his brilliance and unwavering courage in using film to challenge conventional thinking, and for the passion for justice that he feels deep in his soul.”
Today, Lee continues to make films while serving as artistic director of the Graduate Film Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In July, he launched a Kickstarter campaign which raised $1.4 million for his upcoming film, Oldboy, set to be released in November.