Von Trier apologises in an open letter to the industry, but also flags up freedom of speech issues after Iran comments to the festival.

In an open letter to the film industry, Lars von Trier has issued a statement in response to his being deemed a ‘persona non grata’ by the Cannes Film Festival for his inflammatory remarks at the press conference for his competition entry Melancholia:

“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,” read the statement.

Von Trier landed himself in hot water after the ill-advised comments during which he said he sympathised with Hitler, criticised the state of Israel and cast aspersion on fellow Danish director Susanne Bier.

Von Trier’s comeback follows Iranian Vice Minister of Culture Javad Shamaqdari’s letter to the Cannes Film Festival published yesterday in which he criticized the festival for exluding the Danish director, writing:

“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 churches’ medieval treatment of Galileo.

The Cannes Film Festival left a dark stain on its history…”