Danish director von Trier to return to Cannes after Hitler comments

The Cannes Film Festival announced Thursday that Lars von Trier will return to the event this year for the first time since he was expelled in 2011 for saying he "sympathised" with Hitler.

Danish director von Trier to return to Cannes after Hitler comments
Lars von Trier receives the University of Copenhagen's Sonning Prize. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix

Festival president Pierre Lescure decided to “welcome back” the Danish director, though his film will not be eligible for awards, according to a festival press release.

His film “The House That Jack Built” will screen outside the official competition.

His musical production “Dancer in the Dark” in 2000 won the Palme d'Or, the highest award at the festival and one of the most prestigious prizes in the French film industry.

But Icelandic singer Björk has since alleged that von Trier sexually harassed her during her performance. Von Trier has denied the claims.

This year, five of the nine jury members who award the Palme d'Or are female amid a global movement for women's rights sparked by allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

The majority-female jury, led by Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux, was unveiled on Wednesday as talks were under way to allow Von Trier back into the competition.

Von Trier's new film “The House That Jack Built,” which stars Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman, follows the life of a serial killer.

The directors ban from Cannes was due to comments he made during a press conference for his 2011 film “Melancholia,” which starred American actress Kirsten Dunst.

“I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi,” he said when asked about his German heritage.

“I'm just saying that I think I understand the man. He's not what you would call a good guy, but, yeah, I understand much about him, and I sympathise with him a little bit.”

Later that day, von Trier issued a statement of apology, insisting he was neither anti-Semitic nor a Nazi.

Many cinema professionals, especially in France, felt the Danish director had gone too far and backed the festival board's decision to exclude von Trier.

This year's festival runs from May 8th to 19th at the French Riviera resort.

Von Trier had a second cause for celebration on Thursday as he received the University of Copenhagen's million-kroner (134,000 euros) Sonning Prize, Denmark's biggest cultural award.

“As a filmmaker, Lars von Trier has managed to give different genres his very own interpretation. In that sense, he is a ground-breaking and avantgarde artist who positions himself confidently and self-consciously in a place far removed from the ever more commercialised mainstream films,” chair of the University of Copenhagen's Academy Council Milena Bonifacini said in a press statement.

“I am very proud, something I rarely am, because this prize is not just awarded for a film, but for a life and a way of spending it, a life's work,” von Trier said in his acceptance speech at the University of Copenhagen.

He also commented on the Cannes controversy in the speech, Ritzau reports.

“To the disappointment of some, I have never been a Nazi,” he said.

“The unfortunate outcome of the press conference ended up costing me several years' anxiety. The whole story has taught me to tread more carefully,” the director added.

READ ALSO: Danish film producer returns to work despite harassment allegations


Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid

The Cannes Film Festival has been rescheduled for July 6th to 17th - postponed by around two months due to the ongoing virus crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda posing for the cameras at the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual highlight for movie lovers in France. Photo: AFP

“As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” they said in a statement.

“Initially scheduled from 11th to 22nd May 2021, the Festival will therefore now take place from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 17th July 2021.”

The festival was cancelled last year, while rival European events in Berlin and Venice went ahead under strict health restrictions.

The Berlin Film Festival, which usually kicks off in February, said last month it would run this year's edition in two stages, an online offering for industry professionals in March and a public event in June.

France has closed all cinemas, theatres and show rooms alongside cafés, bars and restaurants as part of its Covid-19 health measures and the government has pushed back their reopening date until further notice due to rising levels of viral spread across the country.

The Cannes festival normally attracts some 45,000 people with official accreditations, of whom around 4,500 are journalists.

It had only been cancelled once before, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.

Its Film Market, held alongside the main competition, is the industry's biggest marketplace for producers, distributors, buyers and programmers.

Last year, the festival still made an official selection of 56 films – including the latest offerings from Wes Anderson, Francois Ozon and Steve McQueen – allowing them to use the “Cannes official selection” label.