Iran Blasts Cannes’ von Trier Banishment; Director Defends Festival

Deputy culture minister says ban leaves “dark stain” on festival history; von Trier says his comments were “unintelligent and hurtful”

Now the Lars von Trier mess has become an international incident.

Javad Shamaqdari, the deputy culture minister in Iran, has written a letter to Cannes president Gilles Jacob charging that the festival "left a dark stain on its history" by banning von Trier and declaring him persona non grata for his press-conference remarks about Hitler and Nazis.

Lars von Trier"Surely you remember that the Cannes festival was established with the aim of struggling against fascists," reads the Tehran Times' English translation of the letter published in Iranian media on Monday.

"After 64 years, it is sad to see the traces of fascist behavior in the Cannes organizers' decision to expel one of the acclaimed European filmmakers.

"Perhaps it is necessary to provide a new definition of freedom of speech for encyclopedias. Otherwise, the behavior Cannes exhibited toward von Trier by forcing him to apologize several times causes everybody to recall the church's medieval treatment of Galileo."

Iran might have another reason for slamming the festival: Two of the films shown at Cannes this year, Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not a Film" and Mohammad Rasoulof's "Goodbye," were by directors currently imprisoned in Iran, and barred from making films for the next 20 years.  

In response to the Iranian letter, von Trier issued the following statement, which could be considered at least a tacit defense of the festival's action:

"In my opinion, freedom of speech, in all its shapes, is part of the basic human rights. However, my comments during the festival’s press conference were unintelligent, ambiguous and needlessly hurtful.

"My intended point was that the potential for extreme cruelty, or the opposite, lies within every human being, whatever nationality, ethnicity, rank or religion. If we only explain historical disasters with the cruelty of individuals we destroy the possibility  of understanding the human mechanisms, which in turn are necessary in order to avoid any future crimes against humanity.


While von Trier was barred from the festival, his film "Melancholia" was not disqualified from contention for awards. Kirsten Dunst won Best Actress honors for her performance in the film.