CHILLING PORTRAIT OF EVIL MYANMAR MONK
AFP CANNES: Barbet Schroeder spent months with former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin at the height of his power, when corpses would wash up every morning on the shores of Lake Victoria and Kampala was rife with rumours that he was eating his opponents.
But in his decades of documenting evil, the veteran Swiss filmmaker said he had never been as scared by anyone as he was by a Myanmar Buddhist monk named Wirathu.
“I am afraid to call him Wirathu because even his name scares me. I just call him W,” the highly acclaimed director said.
The Venerable W, his chilling portrait of the monk who has been accused of preaching hate and inciting attacks on Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority, has been hailed by critics at the Cannes film festival as a “stirring documentary about ethnic cleansing in action”.
What dismays Schroeder is that Wirathu, whom Time magazine dubbed “The face of Buddhist terror” in a 2013 cover, is utterly unfazed by the chaos and
AFP suffering he has unleashed.
Buddhism is supposed to be the philosophy of peace, enlightenment and understanding, Schroeder thought. It helped centre his own life when he made a pilgrimage to India to follow the path of the Buddha 50 years ago to “cure myself of my jealousy”.
But the hate speech and fake news that Wirathu spreads from his Mandalay monastery, accusing Muslims, barely four per cent of the country’s population, of trying to outbreed the majority Burmese, made Schroeder’s head spin.
“He is much more intelligent and in control of himself than I thought, devilishly clever in fact,” said Schroeder, who shot his film secretly in Myanmar until he attracted the attention of the secret police. AFP