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Controversial director Lars Von Trier returns to Cannes after 2011 ban

The House the Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as a serial killer who embarks on a series of murders spa..

The House the Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as a serial killer who embarks on a series of murders spanning a decade in the United States during the 1970s.

The film stars Uma Thurman, Riley Keough and Danish actress Sofie Grabol.

Keough is Elvis Presley's granddaughter; Grabol is best known for playing detective Sarah Lund in all three series of the hit Danish drama Forbrydelsen (The Killing).

The controversial filmmaker has been persona non grata at the world's most important film festival for the past seven years following comments he made at a press conference at the festival in 2011 after he was asked about his background.

"I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out I was really a Nazi, you know, because my family was German," Von Trier said in 2011. "What can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end.

"I think I understand the man," Von Trier continued. "He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathise with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and Im not against Jews. I am of course very much for Jews."

Von Trier then added: "No, not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass."

The remarks left the media stunned and the stars of his film Melancholia – actors Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgård, who were on the panel with him – speechless.

Realising he was in trouble, Von Trier came back with: "Now how can I get out of this sentence? OK, I'm a Nazi."

Von Trier attempted to qualify the comments at the time, with little success, and followed immediately with an apology.

"If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologise," he said in a statement which was issued the following day. "I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."

Inevitably the comments spread like a media wildfire and in the wake of the scandal, the festival banned Von Trier but the details of the ban were never fully clarified.

Von Trier was himself banned from attending for, according to different media sources, either one or two years; his films, however, were never formally excluded from the festival though Von Trier has not, until this year, seen fit to submit one.

In 2013, festival director Thierry Fremaux said the media prosecution of Von Trier two years earlier was "unfair".

"That controversy was as stupid as what Lars said," Fremaux said. "I told him that he made a bad joke, but that the controversy was unfair."

The 71st annual Cannes Film Festival runs from May 8 until May 19.

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Michael Idato

Michael Idato is a Senior Writer based in Los Angeles for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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