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Director Lars Von Trier Banned From Cannes After Nazi Comments

In this photo taken Wednesday, May 18, 2011, director Lars Von Trier attends a press conference for <em>Melancholia</em>.
Francois Mori
In this photo taken Wednesday, May 18, 2011, director Lars Von Trier attends a press conference for Melancholia.

The director Lars Von Trier caused an uproar, yesterday, during a press conference at the Cannes film festival. In a rambling comment about his German background, Von Trier said he used to think he was a Jew but then found out he was a Nazi.

The Cannes Film Festival reacted swiftly, today. The Wall Street Journal reports the organizers released a statement calling him a "persona non grata:"

The Festival de Cannes provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation. The Festival's Board of Directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday 19 May 2011, 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.

The Board of Directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars Von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately.

The Danish director, best known for his 2000 film Dancer in the Dark, apologized, the AP reports. He said he was not anti-Semitic.

The comments that got him banned were made durring a press conference that followed the screening of his latest film Melancholia. The AP quoted him as saying:

"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," von Trier said. "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..."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.