Director apologizes for Nazi, Hitler jokes in Cannes

Wed May 18, 2011 12:45pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Danish director Lars Von Trier apologized on Wednesday for joking about Nazis and Hitler to reporters at the Cannes film festival, remarks that shocked organizers and caused offence among Jewish groups.

The maverick film maker is at the cinema showcase with competition entry "Melancholia," a grand cinematic statement on life, death and the universe which wowed a packed audience at a press screening in the giant Grand Theater Lumiere.

But his provocative comments, which appeared to have been made in jest, overshadowed the triumph some journalists and critics felt his movie to be and may harm his chances of winning the Palme d'Or in Cannes for best picture.

"You can't award him a Palme d'Or, politically," said Jason Solomons, chairman of the Film Critics' Circle in London who is in Cannes for the May 11-22 festival.

"People might say it should go to the art and not the artist, but these days I don't think that's true or right," he told Reuters after hearing Von Trier's remarks.

Festival organizers demanded an explanation from the 55-year-old film maker, and Von Trier issued the following statement: "If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize.

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

His comments dominated press coverage from Cannes on Wednesday. The Hollywood Reporter remarked that the director had "pulled a Mel Gibson," in reference to the latter's anti-Semitic slurs in 2006 that badly harmed his reputation.   Continued...

<p>Director Lars Von Trier (L) and cast member Kirsten Dunst attend a news conference for the film "Melancholia", in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2011. REUTERS/Yves Herman</p>