Cannes 2011: Organizers call Lars Von Trier remarks 'unacceptable,' 'intolerable'
The backlash to Lars von Trier's comments about Nazism intensified Thursday, as the Cannes Film Festival declared the director persona non grata at the world's most prestigious cinema gathering, effective immediately.
After Von Trier jokingly said he was a Nazi and more a German than a Jew at a news conference on Wednesday, festival organizers issued a statement saying they were "disturbed" by the comments. Then the festival's board of directors convened and returned with a stronger statement on Thursday afternoon.
"The Festival de Cannes provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation," it said. "The festival's board of directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday, May 19, profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the Festival. The Board of Directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately."
The step was highly unusual; a festival spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but several 20-year veterans of Cannes said they could never recall a declaration of this sort before. The consequences of the board's move remain unclear, though it's safe to say that any hope the Danish director had for a Palme d'Or for his film, the otherwise well-received English-language sci-fi-family drama "Melancholia," or a return visit with future films, is now in all but gone. It was unclear whether the festival's competition jury, which this year is being headed by Robert De Niro, has been instructed to disqualify "Melancholia."
Earlier Thursday, before the declaration was issued, Von Trier showed some contrition in an interview with The Times. But he also had some harsh words for organizers, who had called him Wednesday. "It's a major thing at the festival, and very problematic for the festival. And that's a little strange, because even if I was Hitler, what does that have to do with my film being here? It's a festival for films, not for directors," he said.
-- Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France
Photo: French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg and Danish director Lars von Trier at the Wednesday news conference for "Melancholia' at which Von Trier made his controversial remarks. Credit: Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA