Witch hunt or wise move? Cannes ponders expulsion

Thu May 19, 2011 1:31pm EDT
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By Nick Vinocur and Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Witch hunt or wise decision? That was the question on the lips of movie-goers, critics and executives at the Cannes film festival on Thursday after the sudden expulsion of Danish director Lars Von Trier.

The annual cinema showcase is the world's biggest and well-known as a haven for provocative voices like Von Trier's. But organizers clearly decided the 55-year-old director had overstepped the mark when he jokingly told the world press on Wednesday that he was a Nazi who sympathized with Hitler.

And while the festival cracked down on Von Trier within 24 hours, revoking his accreditation, reaction was more divided from the crowd on the famous palm-lined Riviera waterfront.

"I'm against the decision. Everyone here is on two hours' sleep and anyone can say something stupid at a press conference. He apologized and that was enough," said 20-something filmmaker Christophe Monsourian.

At Wednesday's bizarre press conference, Von Trier, in Cannes to talk about his movie "Melancholia," launched into a rambling monologue about his Jewish/German heritage before making the remarks that forced his exit.

He jokingly said he was a Nazi, sympathized with Hitler "a little bit," deemed Israel a "pain in the ass" and muttered the phrase "the final solution for journalists."

Once Von Trier's words made headlines in newspapers and websites the world over, the Cannes board of directors hastily convened for a "tense" meeting at which it was decided to throw him out, ending a hitherto happy relationship with the festival.

His film Melancholia remains in competition, however.   Continued...

<p>Visitors stand on a balcony at the Festival Palace during the 64th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 15, 2011. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann</p>