Swiss film director Barbet Schroeder’s latest documentary on Myanmar’s anti-Islam monk, Wirathu, screened at the Cannes Film Festival Saturday, providing a “chilling portrait” of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, AFP reports.
The Venerable W is the third installment of Schroeder’s “Axis of Evil” documentary trilogy. The two previous films in the series depict Ugandan dictator General Idi Amin Dada and the controversial lawyer Jacques Verges — of the three, Schroeder says, “he has never been as scared by anyone as he was by a Myanmar Buddhist monk named Wirathu.”
“Even his name scares me,” Schroeder told AFP. “I just call him W.”
Wirathu, sometimes referred to as the “Buddhist Bin Laden,” was named “The Face of Buddhist Terror” on a 2013 cover of Time magazine for his anti-Muslim hate speech and inciting of riots against Myanmar’s Rohingya population.
Schroeder shot the film secretly in Myanmar, following Wirathu and allowing him to simply talk, rather than “question him like a journalist.” As Schroeder told AFP, he was dismayed by how Wirathu is “utterly unfazed by the chaos and suffering he has unleashed,” on Myanmar’s Muslim population.
In a review of The Venerable W, film critic Lee Marshall noted the “shocking disjunct” between Wirathu’s Buddhist religion “and the rabid nationalism of his sermons, writings and declarations” showcased in the film. This depiction, he writes, serves as “a chilling corrective to accounts of Burma that paint its recent history simply as a fight between courageous pro-democracy forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi and a repressive military regime.”
The Venerable W depicts Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar and former Buddhist peace activist, as “by no means a heroine in this particular story,” writes Marshall. Suu Kyi recently rejected a decision by the UN to investigate alleged crimes against humanity in Myanmar.