Danish Film Director Tries Freedom of Speech in France... Fails
Thursday, 19 May 2011

Lars von Trier was expelled from the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, a day after joking at a news conference that he was a Nazi and expressing sympathy for Hitler. The Danish director’s film “Melancholia” is in competition at the festival and seen as a contender for the top prize.

In a statement posted on the festival’s Web site the Cannes board of directors said it “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 persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately,” the statement said.

A spokeswoman for the festival said she did not know if any such expulsion had occurred before. She said “Melancholia” would remain in competition, judged by a jury of filmmakers led by Robert De Niro. If Mr. von Trier was to win a prize on Sunday (he won the Palme d’Or in 2000 for his film “Dancer in the Dark”), he would not be allowed on the premises, the festival spokeswoman said. No decision has been made about whether the ban would apply to future festivals. A spokeswoman for Magnolia Pictures, which will distribute the film in the United States, said the Cannes board’s decision will not affect plans to release the film in the fall as scheduled.

The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors & Their Descendants, an umbrella organization of survivors groups, applauded the board’s decision to ban Mr. von Trier.

“This is a welcome action which declares to the world that the suffering of victims is not a fit subject for mockery or casual self-promotion,” the organization said in a statement. “The organizers of the Cannes Film Festival have eloquently taken a determined moral stand against cavalier expressions of hate and insensitivity to those brutalized by the Nazis — Jew and non-Jew. We cannot look into von Trier’s heart to judge the sincerity of the ‘apology’ he issued. Only his future words and actions can tell us whether he understands the hurt he has caused.”


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