Early this morning, the Cannes Film Festival declared Lars Von Trier “persona non grata, with effect immediately,” effectively expelling him from this year’s festival. This was in response to Von Trier’s remarks about Nazis, despite the fact that said remarks were made jokingly, specifically intended to provoke, and apologized for after the fact.
It is unclear if the ban will extend to future festivals, or if it will affect the prize-winning chances of Von Trier’s well-received festival film, Melancholia. According to the The New York Times, the film will still be in contention but if it wins any awards, von Trier will not be there to accept them.
The Cannes Film Festival has had a long history of supporting Von Trier, playing a dozen of his films in the past and giving awards for Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves. Von Trier has frequently been a provocateur, both through his films and through his interviews. By repeatedly inviting Von Trier to the festival, Cannes must have known what they would be getting: a potentially daring new film and a ton of free press. Among other things, that’s what makes this ban so surprising.
Oliver Lyttelton from The Playlist accurately sums up my views on the matter:
Yes, the director was being a prize ass, to the surprise of absolutely no-one. But we’d think that the official reprimand, and subsequent apology would have been the end of the story, without the need to blacklist the director. If Von Trier had stood up and outlined racial supremacist views, that would have been one thing, but he was nowhere near that, and even clarified his views at the time, and to ban Von Trier from the festival only a few days after parading Mel Gibson, a man on record as making genuinely racist and anti-Semitic statements, down the red carpet for the out-of-competition premiere of The Beaver, a move designed to generate publicity just as much as Von Trier’s comments were, is an act of staggering hypocrisy.
Here’s the statement from the festival, taken from the Cannes website:
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.