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by Brian Brooks
May 19, 2011 2:18 AM
29 Comments
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Updated: Lars Von Trier Declared "Persona Non Grata" at Cannes, Effective Immediately

Using wording that may have far-reaching effect in Lars Von Trier's relationship with the Cannes Film Festival, the event's Board of Directors declared the Danish director "persona non grata" today after his controversial press conference Wednesday when he seemingly joked that he had some sympathy for Hitler and "understood him" and flippantly said he was a "Nazi."

His words, which drew both gasps and nervous laughter yesterday, quickly grew into a media firestorm with the festival demanding further explanation and Von Trier later issuing an apology saying he had gone too far by being "egged on."

This new declaration seemingly removes his latest film, "Melancholia" from competition -- the film was received well following its initial screening Wednesday -- and "persona non grata" appears to imply that Von Trier's future participation at the Festival de Cannes is in doubt.

In addition, Argentina's Distribution Company SA, has already declared that it will refuse to distribute "Melancholia,“ according to a story filed out of Buenos Aires by the Hollywood Reporter.

If recent experience is any indication, Von Trier could possibly face legal action in France. Christian Dior designer John Galliano was subsequently fired and now faces prosecution for a drunken pro-Hitler rant that was recorded in a Paris restaurant and uploaded to YouTube. In France, making anti-Semitic remarks is punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of up to € 22,500.

[Update 4:15 pm local time - A spokesperson at the Cannes Film Festival told indieWIRE that Von Trier's "Melancholia" "remains in competition." His status as "Persona Non Grata," at least now, means he would not be welcome to collect any prize Sunday, including the Palme d'Or which the film is still eligible for.

Apparently the festival also has not raced to erase images of von Trier from the Palais des Festivals either. Even over an hour after the festival's declaration had been issued, monitors inside the large facility were still replaying images from Wednesday night's red carpet premiere of "Melancholia." As is tradition for such events, festival head Thierry Frémaux was at the top of the steps greeting von Trier and the film's stars including Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg.]


Here's the official festival statement, just released. We'll have updates shortly:

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. The Festival’s Board of Directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday 19 May 2011, 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.

Here's indieWIRE's Cannes coverage of "Melancholia," and the Lars Von Trier scandal, so far:

Lars von Trier Apologizes For Controversial “Melancholia” Press Conference Comments

Lars von Trier on ‘Melancholia’: “Maybe it’s crap”

Eugonline: Lars Von Trier's Hand

CANNES REVIEW | With “Melancholia,” Lars Von Trier Delivers a Dark Apocalyptic Masterpiece

Watch Von Trier's controversial remarks here:

29 Comments

  • David N. Glassman | May 24, 2011 3:34 AMReply

    Its clear that Dunst was shocked and wants to leave her chair. One can not use art as an excuse to hate and expect others to tolerate it. There are limits and others have crossed the line such as Mel Gibson. I am sure the film is no masterpiece since great film/art requires that the director has a soul.

  • Tom de Jong | May 20, 2011 12:15 PMReply

    Agree completely that the festival organization managed to contradict itself completely. They did, and it shows what kind of an overreaction this is. The organizing committee could have stated that they strongly disagree with the statement, as do most people. But by 'banning' von Trier, they are violating their own goal of being a podium for free speech. It's the well-known saying: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it". Disagree, but never ban!

  • jingmei | May 20, 2011 11:02 AMReply

    he's the babe of Cannes, for sure his film stays there, he is banned. AntiVon Trier, a creepy film maker. He's lack of something in his mind.

  • Juke Early | May 20, 2011 8:29 AMReply

    Old Lars rips the USA in the subtext of many of his movies. But that's OK w/those phonies at Cannes - not this. AS for the commenter here who stated above "Making anti-Semitic remarks is punishable by up to six months in prison but making anti-islamic remarks is a very common thing everywhere. . .." Hey genius, war is hell & is a profound evil, no matter who prosecutes it. So you have my sympathy for innocent Muslim deaths - btw many caused by Saddam Hussein, directly & indirectly. But until Muslims are herded into death camps & executed by the millions for just religious reasons - STFU.

    IF von Trier shouted "fire" in a crowded theatre at Cannes - ban him. Until then, you sophisticated Euro creeps need to learn about free speech.

  • spongebob43 | May 20, 2011 5:47 AMReply

    This man said he "understands HITLER" "sympathizes with the man". are you kidding me?
    Understands what? That he killed millions of people, French, Germans, British, Canadians, Australians, American, Russians, woman, children, gay, gypsies and millions of Jews, And I can continue the list on and on…
    Hitler not only killed millions, but also destroyed Europe.
    THIS IS A NOT A LAUGHING MATTER.
    Stop defending this stupid director.
    I don’t care about the reasons he said what he said - for attention, for controversy, a joke? whatever…It doesn’t matter. He used a very big stage to say his Stupid remarks to millions of viewers. what about all the families that lost someone fighting Hitler or families that lost someone in the gas chambers? are they laughing from his joke? STOP making his remarks trivial. what Hitler did showed us the dark side of human nature - and we shouldn't make Hitlers and his actions a joke.
    Lars Von Trier disgraced all the people who got murdered, raped, gassed and experimented on, and dishonored all the brave men and women that fought to rid the world of Hitler and his evil plan for world domination. This stupid director CAN SPEAK FREELY today because so many sacrificed their lives on Normandy beach and all over Europe.
    This guy should really shut his mouth and take a good look at himself in the mirror, maybe take a stroll in one of the graveyards in Normandy, even better-build a time machine and join Hitler in his bunker in there last moments together.

  • Let's All Take A Deep Breath | May 20, 2011 5:41 AMReply

    Two short conclusions:

    1. Let's not interview artists. Their art is what counts, the reat is all blah blah.
    2. I forget what number two was. Who has time to devote to this stuff?

    Peace in western Asia, please.

  • Malcolm P | May 20, 2011 5:19 AMReply

    Brian, can you post the full press conference, or a larger chunk? I agree that the context is important to consider, no matter what the conclusion. It's amazing to me that this has been talked about in the press almost entirely without even mentioning the question he was being asked, let alone the larger context. I'm not defending his words, it was certainly in poor taste, but I agree, the quickness to judge without context here is also disturbing.

  • Brian Brooks | May 20, 2011 1:28 AMReply

    If I may, "Melancholia" is really great! And consider that he f'd up with what he said - I agree! But it was a stupid joke in which he went too far. That was at least the initial reaction in the room... And then it obviously took on a whole different life.

    So...

    That said, he apologized - as he should - and LVT did...

    But, if possible, please look at the whole context of his press conf which you can find... And then try and make your judgement.

  • MDL | May 19, 2011 10:06 AMReply

    Von Trier has a right to say what he wants and the festival has a right to revoke his status at the festival. In otherwords; say what you want - just not at this festival. As I see it both sides are using their rights.
    I don't see hypocrisy with regards to Mel Gibson because Gibson didn't say his repulsive remarks [or criminal actions] at the festival. But von Trier caused a sensation at the festival that they would rather not have.
    Also it is far less likely for any festival to not invite someone for past actions / words than it is for them to dis-invite someone for current actions / words that happen under their roof.

    But ultimately the real question is; how is the movie?

  • Victor Goss | May 19, 2011 9:18 AMReply

    May I repeat what Bad Brad posted?

    "(if) You can’t say “defend freedom of expression and creation” in the same paragraph as “comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity”. What a bunch of hypocrites (we all are).

    If you can't listen to what other people have to say, you don't have a right to speak, either. Think about it...........

    It's a great level of wisdom to be able to listen to all voices, and still hold your own beliefs.

    food for thot, ?

    v

  • Don | May 19, 2011 8:59 AMReply

    I seem to understand Hitler also after having read "Mein Kampf." I also believe that as a Jew, the Holocaust was the most monstrous act of genocide in all of human history. But come on, Lars von Trier is a consummate artist who thrives on controversy. His films make us uncomfortable as his comments.

  • MJB | May 19, 2011 8:54 AMReply

    Making anti-Semitic remarks is punishable by up to six months in prison but making anti-islamic remarks is a very common thing everywhere.

  • JO | May 19, 2011 8:18 AMReply

    He's a gimp. Kick him and his stupid film out of there. It's all just crap anyway.

  • brooke | May 19, 2011 7:39 AMReply

    Tempest in a teapot. I don't see what the joke is. I don't see what's offensive. Is just mentioning Hitler a faux pas? Sounds like repression.

    The look on Kirsten Dunst's face is priceless, though.

  • paperclip | May 19, 2011 7:17 AMReply

    I think that even if Von Trier meant nothing, it was offensive--and he went on and on and on. He apologized, so obviously even if he wasn't thinking at the time the words came out of his mouth, later on he realized what a mistake he had made. I think the festival organizers have every right to respond to his comments. Their statement makes it seem as if Von Treier spoke with more agency than the rambling clip shows--but it does seem as if he made a gigantic professional error.

    I don't think this gaffe should affect the status of his film at the festival--but Von Trier should be held accountable for his words. He is an artist working in a collaborative medium that commands large audiences in groups--and if he is this clueless about handling audiences, he deserves the criticism he's getting.

  • Adolph Hitler | May 19, 2011 7:16 AMReply

    LOL, once again, without fail, teh internet over reacts and goes bananas at somethign that isn't even newsworthy ! Quick everyone, post about it in your really relevant and worthwhile blogs or facebook updates ! :D

  • Tom Snyder | May 19, 2011 7:00 AMReply

    Great! Now, if France could also ban pro-Communist rants and rants against Jesus Christ and Christians, the world would be an even better place.

  • hypersquared | May 19, 2011 6:55 AMReply

    Von Trier makes complex and provocative films, but when speaking in public his impulse to be shocking always ends catastrophically. He has no gift for it, and if he had any sense, he'd take a cue from Malick and not do press. (Of course, if Malick ever talked to the press, I doubt he'd have anything shocking to say; he'd more likely lull the world to sleep). So yeah, Matt's right. There's nothing to be defended in what Von Trier said. It was juvenile, not funny, and it would have been offensive if it actually meant anything, but it didn't. There was no content or point of view! He just rambled about Nazis and Jews and Israel, and the joke he probably thought he was spinning out of thin air never materialized, so he changed the subject.

    So, yeah, the Cannes board of directors is completely overreacting. The incident should be ignored as though it were a stupid kid making a bad joke at a church picnic, because that's about what it amounts to. Bad Brad had it exactly right in his comment above.

  • Heather | May 19, 2011 6:26 AMReply

    I'd quite like to know what the question was that he was even answering! I think this has been hyped up way too much. It seems that he just meant that he found out that he has Nazi ancestors, it's part of his family history, is he supposed to feel ashamed?! He didn't even say anything bad about Jews, jeeze! Like someone above said, what's the word on Mel Gibson and his comments, is he welcome?! We should be able to talk about these things away from a history lesson with a bit less outrage, it's not a taboo subject.

  • Matt | May 19, 2011 6:21 AMReply

    Freedom of speech doesn't mean an organization can't have standards and is forced to tolerate a totally arrogant, rambling and stupid "joke." Nothing he said should be defended it was a bumbling mess; and it wasn't even funny.

  • Big Black | May 19, 2011 4:45 AMReply

    Screw 'em all - they'll still line up at the box office. Way to go, Lars...

  • TAM | May 19, 2011 3:12 AMReply

    Antisemitism had been very strong in most of Europe for many years before WWII, including France--remember the Dreyfuss Affair--and North America--remember that the shipload of escaping Jews was denied entry to Cuba, USA and Canada and had to return to Europe. I, myself, saw a "Gentiles Only" sign in Canada, around 1942.

    Hitler did accomplish one great and positive thing, albeit at a great price: The Beginning of the End of Racism!!! As soon as the horrors of The Holocaust were made public, there was a slow but radical change in attitude towards racism, which eventually set the stage for the civil rights movement in the USA. Racism is not dead yet but Nazism did make it very ill and I hope that it will eventually die.

    However if, in the name of antiracism, we start curtailing free speech, as the Nazis did, then we are drifting towards the Nazi philosophy of suppression of civil rights. THINK!!!

  • Gigi | May 19, 2011 3:06 AMReply

    But Polanski and Mel Gibson still welcome, right? Fucking hypocrites.
    Team von Trier.

  • GlenH | May 19, 2011 3:04 AMReply

    Melancholia is still in competition and will not be removed according to Cédric Succivalli and Peter Bradshaw.

  • Seth Imis | May 19, 2011 2:16 AMReply

    They welcomed Mel Gibson who pleaded no-contest to domestic battery but Lars makes a (admittedly poor and idiotic) joke and he's banned from Cannes and kicked out of competition! This is total hypocrisy. This has been blown way, way out of all proportion.

  • rylen | May 19, 2011 2:09 AMReply

    Jebus Christ! it was a joke going horrible wrong, its not like he means any of it, such as, Mel Gibson or John Galliano... He didnt say any anti-semitic things, he has an ongoing banter with 'Susanne Bier' and yes he said Israel was a pain in the ass, but come on... and btw he said he maybe was of a bit nazi, understood as they in 'Seinfeld' had a Soup-nazi...

    Overreaction? I think so!!

  • Bad_Brad | May 19, 2011 1:45 AMReply

    You can't say "defend freedom of expression and creation" in the same paragraph as "comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity". What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • Keil Shults | May 19, 2011 1:45 AMReply

    A) I meant Palme.

    B) After further reading, it appears he may be eligible for the award after all.

    C) Ebert's really annoying on Twitter.

  • Keil Shults | May 19, 2011 1:40 AMReply

    So now if Tree of Life wins the Palm d'Or we'll have to hear all its detractors use Melancholia's exemption as the excuse for it not being the "rightful victor."