Spike Lee Will Be Given Film at Lincoln Center’s Highest Honor

A Manhattan institution is getting ready to honor one of Brooklyn’s foremost exports.

Film at Lincoln Center, the nonprofit organization focused on movie programming, will give its latest Chaplin Award to the director Spike Lee, the organization announced Thursday. It will be the 46th edition of award, and the first the group has bestowed since it changed its name from Film Society of Lincoln Center to Film at Lincoln Center earlier this year.

For decades, Lee “has been making challenging films that speak to our vibrant city and to the larger world, and his work remains as vital as ever,” Lesli Klainberg, the executive director of Film at Lincoln Center, said in a statement. “We feel lucky to have had a special relationship with Lee at Film at Lincoln Center, showing his very first film” — that would be “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads” “at the 1983 New Directors/New Films festival, and welcoming his films to our theaters in the years since.”

The award will be presented at a fund-raising gala in April that will pay tribute to Lee’s career. Film at Lincoln Center will also present a retrospective of Lee’s movies this spring.

He joins a distinguished roster of movie industry figures who have been given the Chaplin Award: Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Martin Scorsese and Meryl Streep are among past recipients. The honor dates to 1972 with a gala that recognized the award’s namesake. It is typically given annually, though Film at Lincoln Center did not give out an award this year; it instead held a gala celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary. The most recent three winners are Helen Mirren, Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman.

Lee, whose career took off in the 1980s with “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Do the Right Thing,” won his first competitive Oscar this year, a shared award for best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” which he also directed. The award (which followed an honorary Oscar in 2015) was seen by many as overdue academy recognition for an artist who has for decades been regarded as one of film’s most important directors, and whose work — through flourishes like his signature dolly shots — has reflected a range of his home city’s various rhythms.

“It’s hard to conceive,” Klainberg said in the statement, “of the New York film community without Spike Lee.”

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