Cannes film festival bans Danish movie director after anti-Semitic rant

Cannes International Film Festival has declared Danish film director Lars von Trier 'persona non grata' following his rant about understanding Adolf Hitler. At a special meeting convened Friday they condemned the comments and said the director was banned from the rest of the event, effective immediately. They said: "The festival provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation. [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."

Von Trier had claimed to be a Nazi and expressed his desire to direct pornography. Speaking Wednesday at a press conference in Cannes to promote his latest film ‘Melancholia’, he said he wanted to do a hardcore porn movie with the American actress Kirsten Dunst, who was sitting next to him during the press conference. The director then went on to say:  "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.

"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." Von Trier then asked: "How can I get out of this sentence?" Going on to say that he liked Hitler’s aide Albert Speer, von Trier finally wrapped up saying, "OK, I'm a Nazi." Asked whether he fancied one day tackling a blockbuster, instead of the art-house films for which he is famed, he continued: "Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do the Final Solution."

Von Trier later issued a statement in which he professed to be sorry for his remarks. "If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not antis-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said the director’s comments were an example of the growing phenomenon of what he called "respectable anti-Semitism." He added: "Von Trier's remarks serve as another reminder of the seeming comfort that anti-Semites feel expressing their prejudices in public gatherings. There must be consequences for these types of racist tirades, or it will just continue and escalate. It is vital that the European political leadership draw a line and legally proscribe hate speech, because Jews are becoming the fashionable target of increasingly intolerant elements within the political, academic and entertainment strata. Just as the fashion industry has made John Galliano an outcast because of his hate speech, so the film industry should do the same with von Trier."

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