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:
Watch Von Trier's controversial remarks here: