New Straits Times - - World -

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


Ari­ana Grande

Jude Rat­nam

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