Entertainment & Arts

Von Trier 'persona non grata' at Cannes after Nazi row

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Media captionLars Von Trier: "I understand Hitler but I think he did some wrong things yes absolutely but I can see him sitting in his bunker"

The Cannes Film Festival has banned director Lars Von Trier after he claimed to be a Nazi and that he sympathised with Adolf Hitler.

In a statement issued on Thursday, organisers said the Danish film-maker was now "persona non grata".

The director issued an apology on Wednesday for comments made at a press conference earlier in the day.

"I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi," he said in a statement.

The festival's pronouncement came after Wednesday's premiere of Von Trier's new film Melancholia, which remains in competition at this year's event.

The decision was supported by French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand who told reporters in Brussels that "there is a major difference between a film that was chosen in a calm atmosphere and a director who clearly blew a fuse".

He added Von Trier's remarks "did not have a place in the festival, or anywhere else for that matter".

Organisers said Cannes' board of directors had held "an extraordinary meeting" at which Von Trier was declared "a persona non grata... with effect immediately".

The director's comments, they said, were "unacceptable, intolerable and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the festival".

The 55-year-old is a previous winner of the festival's Palme d'Or award and is renowned for courting controversy.

Von Trier's off-colour remarks, purportedly made in jest, were the talk of the festival on Wednesday and prompted a swift rebuke from organisers.

The director stunned onlookers by stating he "sympathised" with Hitler and for saying that while he was "not against Jews... Israel is a pain in the ass".

The festival said it had been "disturbed" by the 55-year-old's comments and had asked him to "provide an explanation".

"The director states that he let himself be egged on by a provocation," its initial statement read.

"The festival is adamant that it would never allow the event to become the forum for such pronouncements on such subjects."

Von Trier and his stars were all smiles as they took to the red carpet on Wednesday at the official screening of Melancholia.

Image caption It followed a press conference Dunst (r) was heard to call "intense"

The mood was very different earlier, however, when the director's remarks were met by awkward, stony silences.

Spider-Man actress Dunst was heard to describe the occasion as "intense" as she left the podium.

In an interview later, the star admitted Von Trier had "run his mouth" and had "dug himself in a deep hole".

A family drama that takes place in the shadow of an imminent apocalypse, Melancholia also stars the French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg and Britain's John Hurt.

Von Trier was last at Cannes in 2009 with Antichrist, a dark drama featuring graphic scenes of sex and violence that provoked a furore at that year's event.

Speaking on Thursday, one of Melancholia's producers said the director "accepts whatever the festival directors want to do to punish him".

"It's up to the festival to decide what is good for the festival," Meta Foldager told the AFP agency.

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