FaithWorld

Witch hunt or wise move? Cannes ponders expulsion over Nazi “joke”

(Director Lars Von Trier arrives on the red carpet for the screening of the film "Melancholia" in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2011/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

Witch hunt or wise decision? That was the question on the lips of movie-goers, critics and executives at the Cannes film festival 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.”

Cannes normally thrives on controversy and scandal, as when Von Trier brought his ultra-violent, sexually explicit “Antichrist” to the festival two years ago that prompted jeers at the press screening.

French foreign minister gets ready for criticism over planned burqa ban


(French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Europe 1 radio, 2 May 2010/Dailymotion)

France hasn’t even presented its draft bill to outlaw Muslim face veils yet — in contrast to Belgium, which has started voting on its ban — but Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is already preparing for the wave of criticism from abroad it will provoke. He told Europe 1 radio on Sunday that he’d already warned the government at a cabinet meeting about what to expect.

“The United States are very attached to religious liberty and there will be lots of NGOs and American foundations that will want to point out our mistake,” he said (in the video above in French). “I think they’ll also be convinced that we are for religious liberty but there is no religious recommendation to veil one’s face.

Germany asks if Islam impedes on freedom of speech

GERMANY/A decision by the German publisher Droste not to print a murder mystery about an honour killing because it contained passages insulting Islam has raised questions in Germany about religion impeding on freedom of speech.

Droste publishers said they would have published the book, entitled “To Whom Honour is Due”, had author Gabriele Brinkmann softened the tone in some sections In one, for example, an angry character tells another to dispose of a Koran using a crude phrase we would not reproduce here. “The author was not prepared to change the derogatory passages, which would have  been a condition for the publication,” Droste said in a statement on its website. (Photo: The Merkez Mosque in Duisburg, Aug 21, 2009, Reuters/Ina Fassbender)

Little did they realise what a stir this decision would cause in Germany, which is sensitive to any compromise on freedom of speech and where security fears over Islamists have blocked several artistic ventures in recent years. “For me, it is about the principle. That is why I went public about this. I won’t hurry to be obedient and carry out self censorship,” Brinkmann told German media.  “Justified fear or cowardice?” asked the headline in the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.