Cannes Downgrades Lars Von Trier To 'Persona Non Grata' Status

Pro-Hitler comments get the director booted from the Riviera

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A day after kind of apologizing for Danish director Lars Von Trier's pro-Hitler comments at the press conference for his new film Melancholia, the Cannes Film Festival Board of Directors has issued a new statement downgrading him to "a persona non grata" at the festival, "with effect immediately."

We have no idea whether this is an official status at Cannes (or if this is something lasts in perpetuity) but it's a big change from yesterday, when organizers issued a statement scolding Von Trier for allowing himself to be "egged on by a provocation" into making the comments, which prompted criticism from the media, Jewish groups, and his own cast, and led to the cancellation of the Melancholia premiere party last night. The full statement:

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 board of directors 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.

Update 1:: At Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeff Wells has already together a petition calling for Von Trier's de-non gratafication.

We, the undersigned, recognize the the Board's responsibility to respond forcefully and unequivocally to the offensive statements made on Wednesday, 5.18, by Melancholia director Lars von Trier. You are a political body as well as a team dedicated to drawing worldwide attention to the most exciting and artful films each year, and in this context you were obliged to verbally admonish Mr. Von Trier, even though he sincerely apologized for these statements on the same day he made them.

We feel, however, that declaring an artist of his accomplishments and magnitude "persona non grata" is an over-reaction. We ask that you reconsider.

You no doubt understand that Mr. Von Trier is a bit of a rascal and a provocateur. He loves to poke at the hornet's nest. We recognize, of course, that he went too far with Wednesday's statements (although we believe they were made in jest) and that he committed a grave political error in doing so.

But Lars Von Trier is one of your own -- a longtime friend of the festival -- and it seems harsh and even rash to throw him under the bus in this manner. Your decision seems particularly inappropriate since he is the director of one of this year's most emphatically praised competition entries, one which, until late yesterday morning, stood a reasonable if not better-than-decent chance of winning the Palme d'Or.

Lars von Trier is a serious and compassionate artist who has time and again made films that have, with the possible exception of Antichrist, lent immeasurable dignity and stature to your festival. His films have shown time and again that he is full of nothing if not artistic bravery. As with all artists, his films are surely a truer, deeper representation of who he is and what he feels and believes than any words he might carelessly speak at a press conference. Never trust the artist -- trust the tale.

Due respect, but respect needs to be paid. Lars Von Trier, an imperfect human being like all of us, needs to be offered charity and clemency. Admonish by all means, but don't excommunicate.

Thank you.

Update 2: Von Trier told The Hollywood Reporter that while he's "no Mel Gibson," he's "a little proud" of the banning. "I think my family would be proud,” he said. “I have a French order. Now they will likely tear it off my chest.” Under the terms of his persona non grata status, he says he can't come "within 100 meters" of the red carpet of the Festival Palais, but isn't sure if that applies to his movie too.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.