George Floyd: Steve McQueen dedicates Cannes films to his memory

Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen has dedicated his two films selected for Cannes Film Festival to the memory of George Floyd.

Mangrove and Lovers Rock would have featured at the festival before it was cancelled due to coronavirus.

McQueen said: “I dedicate these films to George Floyd and all the other black people that have been murdered, seen or unseen, because of who they are, in the US, UK and elsewhere.”

Mr Floyd died in US police custody.

He died on 25 May in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, while three other officers face charges of aiding and abetting murder.

The death has caused protests and sporadic rioting in America, along with global mass demonstrations.

Quoting the legendary Jamaican protest singer and reggae star Bob Marley, McQueen added: “‘If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.’ Black Lives Matter.”

Both of his listed films are part of his BBC Small Axe anthology, consisting of five feature-length stories, which are all now in honour of Mr Floyd.

In 2014, McQueen’s film 12 Years a Slave – based on the 1853 autobiography of the same name by Solomon Northup – won a host of Academy awards, including the Oscar for best picture and best director.

The Brit won the Cannes Film Festival’s coveted Camera d’Or for best first feature film, back in 2008, for his work on Hunger; a historical drama about the 1981 Irish hunger strike.

And while this year’s festival had to be cancelled amid Covid-19 concerns, the Official Selection is still considered to be a massive mark of approval for any movie.

‘It could not disappear’

Also on the 56-strong list for 2020 were Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and Ammonite, directed by another British filmmaker Francis Lee and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

In a statement, the festival’s artistic director Thierry Fremaux said in a statement that while the event – which has offered content to the ongoing We Are One online film event – “could not take its usual form”, it also “could not just disappear”.

“We couldn’t send everyone to 2021,” he added. “So we continued our selection. And it was the right decision.”

He added that the event will unveil its plans “to continue its activities into the autumn” in the near future.

This year’s selection featured 16 female directors, up two from last year, when Mati Diop became the first black female director to have a film featured in-competition in the event’s history.

Check out the full list of films on this year’s Official Selection here.

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