Von Trier ‘persona non grata’ after Cannes Nazi remark

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The Cannes festival Thursday declared Lars von Trier "persona non grata" after the Danish director said he sympathized "a little bit" with Adolf Hitler, but kept his film in competition.

Von Trier, a frequent provocateur, already apologized on Wednesday after telling a press conference following a screening of his apocalyptic new picture "Melancholia" that he understood the Nazi leader.

The festival board of directors "firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars von Trier a persona non grata at the Cannes festival, with effect immediately," the festival said in a statement after an extraordinary meeting.

Questioned by AFP, the festival said that von Trier’s exclusion means he could in theory still win the Palme d’Or for which his film is in competition but he would not be allowed to attend the ceremony to accept it.

Someone who attended the meeting said the decree meant that von Trier "remains in competition but is asked to be discreet. So, if he wins a prize on Sunday, he’s asked not to come and receive it."

The furor erupted after von Trier was on Wednesday asked about his German heritage.

"I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi. You know because my family was German, Hartmann, which also gave me some pleasure," he said with a cheerful smile.

"I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end."

Later in the day, von Trier issued a statement of apology through one of the producers of "Melancholia", adding: "I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."

Several cinema professionals, in particular from France, on Wednesday called for the iconoclastic director to be excluded or at least sanctioned for his statements.

"The Cannes festival provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation," the statement said.

The board "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."

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