Spike Lee, whose 1989 film "Do the Right Thing" explored the origins of a race riot, said here Friday that you don't have to be clairvoyant to predict events like those in Los Angeles last week and called George Bush "a liar" for saying he wants to do something about the causes of racial violence.
"What George Bush wants is to get reelected," Lee said, at a conference on human rights in the cinema held during the Cannes Film Festival. "If he really wanted to do something about L.A., he could have got on Air Force One and gone out there right away instead of waiting a few days to see what people think."
Lee, wearing a red hat with a white "X" on it, said he was in Los Angeles showing Warner Bros. executives a cut of his Malcolm X biography when the riots broke out.
"It was a very strange feeling watching a movie and hearing Malcolm X explain (27) years ago why L.A. was burning down at that very moment," he said.
"Malcolm X" was not ready for premiering at this year's festival, where Lee has had huge successes with "She's Gotta Have It," "Do the Right Thing" and last year's "Jungle Fever." "Do the Right Thing," which traces events leading up to a riot that starts when a black man is killed by white police, had some foreign journalists in Cannes wondering if Lee had written it with the help of a crystal ball.
"It was based on events of the past," said Lee. "History repeats itself. (The L.A. riots) just show how little things have changed."
Lee attacked the Bush Administration for blaming the violence of last week on failed welfare programs, saying Bush and Ronald Reagan deserve the credit for cutting programs and "widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots" in the United States.
"To anyone with a mind, the violence in L.A. was no surprise," he added. "The Rodney King thing was just the straw that broke the camel's back. Even my friend Stevie Wonder, who's blind, could look at that tape and know the police were guilty."
Lee said the police beating of King was more of a human rights violation than a civil rights violation, and the other members of the panel--filmmakers and distributors who came to discuss social unrest in Yugoslavia, the Arab states and Africa--agreed.
"Amnesty International is going to be busy for the next 100 years" sorting through the debris of current events, said Yugoslavian director Emir Kusturica, whose "Father Was Away on Business" won the Palme d'Or here a few years ago. "People are considering (their differences) with bullets and weapons . . . . We have to stop fighting each other."
Lee, calling the American dream of equal justice a Hollywood illusion, said the United States has no right to point its finger at any other country for human rights violations.
"The day after the Rodney King verdict, a white cop in South Africa was sentenced to hang for killing blacks," he said. "I never thought I'd see the day when South Africa was ahead of the United States as far as human rights was concerned."