Coming to theatres today, Friday, January 4:
THE VENERABLE W
Locarno, Telluride, New York, London, IDFA, CPH:DOX, Docslisboa, Jihlava, Docs Against Gravity, Jerusalem, Melbourne, New Zealand, Helsinki, Moscow, Vancouver, Rio, Mill Valley, Mar del Plata, Singapore
A portrait of a Buddhist monk who has fomented Islamophobia in Burma.
The third in Schroeder’s so-called “Trilogy of Evil” – following 1974’s GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA: A SELF PORTRAIT and 2007’s TERROR’S ADVOCATE on attorney to terrorists Jacques Vergès – profiles Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk long linked to anti-Muslim movements in Myanmar – so much so that Time referred to him as “The Face of Buddhist Terror” in a 2013 cover story. While claiming to be a peaceful preacher, he publicly denounces the nation’s Muslim population, the Rohingya, and spreads inflammatory messages about Islam and the need to purify the nation – rhetoric that has resulted in violence, as chillingly captured on cell phone and You Tube videos. Schroeder lays out the history of Rohingya persecution in Burma, but largely allows Wirathu to demonstrate his hateful beliefs via interviews and footage of public preaching. Save for the strange contrivance of utilizing a Western actress to serve as a whispery voice of Buddhism being drowned out by Wirathu’s opportunistic fear-mongering, the film’s construction is fairly straightforward – almost too staid – but succeeds in conveying another example of the disturbing rise of nationalist xenophobia and division in the world today.