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Cannes festival sanctions director for Nazi comments

JTA

May 19, 2011 | 12:27 pm

The Cannes Film Festival sanctioned director Lars von Trier for his expressions of sympathy for Hitler and Nazis.

The festival board of directors on Thursday declared von Trier “persona non grata” and removed him from the festival, but said his current film, “Melancholia,” remains in competition.

Von Trier described himself as a Nazi who is not against Jews. He also called Israel “a pain in the ass” during a news conference Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival to promote his film. He later apologized.

The board “firmly condemns these comments,” said a statement issued by the festival Thursday. It “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.”

“I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi because, you know, my family was German, which also gave me some pleasure,” the director had said during the Wednesday news conference. “What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end. He’s not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against Jews. I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass.”

The French Jewish umbrella group, CRIF, said it was horrified by Lars von Trier’s comments, which demonstrate “current tendencies to trivialize Nazism.”

“Lars von Trier has no place at a Cannes Festival where some participants were sent to extermination camps by Hitler,” the statement said.

The sanction “is a welcome action which declares to the world that the suffering of victims is not a fit subject for mockery or casual self-promotion,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement. “The organizers of the Cannes film festival have eloquently taken a determined moral stand against cavalier expressions of hate and insensitivity to those brutalized by the Nazis: Jew and non-Jew.”

Journalists and critics have called Von Trier’s new film a triumph and said it is in the running for the Palme d’Or prize in Cannes for best picture. His politically charged comments could harm his film’s chances.

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