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Lars von Trier Responds to Iranian Culture Minister's Criticism of Cannes

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 24, 2011 at 2:36AM

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.
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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

This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Melancholia