Danish director Lars von Trier was expelled from the Cannes film festival on Thursday after jokingly declaring himself a Nazi who had some sympathy for Hitler at a news conference.

"The festival's board of directors ... profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the festival," the festival said in a statement.

"The board of directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars von Trier persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately."

The news came as a shock to journalists and critics covering the world's biggest cinema showcase, where von Trier is a regular favorite who won the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture in 2000 with "Dancer in the Dark."
His latest movie "Melancholia" is in competition in 2011, and had been among the favorites to take the top prize.

A spokeswoman for Cannes said she did not know whether such an expulsion had occurred before or if von Trier would be allowed back to the festival in the future.

She added that Melancholia would remain in competition despite its director's expulsion.

During a press conference on Wednesday, von Trier joked that he was a Nazi and that he sympathized with Adolf Hitler, comments which angered Jewish organizations.

"I think I understand the man," von Trier said. "He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews."

"I am of course very much for Jews. No, not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass. But still, how can I get out of this sentence?"
At the end of the conference, at which his star Kirsten Dunst looked increasingly embarrassed, he also muttered the phrase: "the final solution with journalists".

Von Trier apologized later for his remarks after the festival demanded an explanation.