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by Peter Knegt
May 24, 2011 2:36 AM
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Lars von Trier Responds to Iranian Culture Minister's Criticism of Cannes

Lars von Trier and Kirsten Dunst in Cannes Wednesday. Photo by Brian Brooks.

Lars von Trier has released a response to a letter the Iranian Deputy Culture Minister for Cinematic Affairs Javad Shamaqdari released to Persian media outlets Monday that criticized the Cannes Film Festival's decision to declare the director "persona non grata", after his controversial press conference comments.

“Surely you remember that the Cannes festival was established with the aim of struggling against fascists,” Shamaqdari wrote in the letter. “After 64 years, it is sad to see the traces of fascist behavior in the Cannes organizers’ decision to expel one of the acclaimed European filmmakers... Perhaps it is necessary to provide a new definition of freedom of speech for encyclopedias. Otherwise, the behavior Cannes exhibited toward Von Trier by forcing him to apologize several times causes everybody to recall the churches’ medieval treatment of Galileo."

Shamaqdari continued by noting that the Cannes Film Festival has "left a dark stain on its history."

After issuing a brief apology during the festival, Shamaqdari's letter has resulted in a more extensive statement from von Trier, which was released to the media Tuesday:

In connection with the Iranian Vice Minister of Culture Javad Shamaqdari’s letter to the Cannes Film Festival regarding the “Persona non grata” stamping of my personality, I feel called to make the following comment:

In my opinion, freedom of speech, in all its shapes, is part of the basic human rights. However, my comments during the festival’s press conference were unintelligent, ambiguous and needlessly hurtful.

My intended point was that the potential for extreme cruelty, or the opposite, lies within every human being, whatever nationality, ethnicity, rank or religion. If we only explain historical disasters with the cruelty of individuals we destroy the possibility of understanding the human mechanisms, which in turn are necessary in order to avoid any future crimes against humanity.

Lars von Trier

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6 Comments

  • Norm | May 26, 2011 1:01 AMReply

    Poor Europe. So pwned by muslims.

  • Gossip | May 25, 2011 9:54 AMReply

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  • MDL | May 25, 2011 8:47 AMReply

    This Iranian Deputy Culture Minister's letter is something one would expect to read in The Onion. For him to dare call out the festival for reproaching von Trier when his own government is jailing filmmakers for writing scripts or trying to make movies is ironic at best and hypocritical at worst.

    I too agree that von Trier should have pointed this out.

  • umhu | May 25, 2011 7:28 AMReply

    Typical euro-centric world view.

    This is a fact: LVT was censured for speaking his mind. It may have been a bad comment, but he IS SUPPOSED TO BE FREE TO MAKE IT NONETHELESS!

    If he had made a similar statement about Muslims (no shortage of racist statements in the West against Muslims now is there) everybody would cheer it as an example of "free speech". And if any Muslims would dare to complain you'd denounce them as typical anti freedom of speech.

  • Ricardo | May 25, 2011 6:42 AMReply

    ^ Exactly

  • Noah Harlan | May 24, 2011 6:47 AMReply

    I would have liked LVT to have then turned this back on the Iranians and pointed out that they have imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi (and many others) for his views and they should sit down and STFU on issues of creative freedom.