LONDON – In the third episode of his “trilogy of evil”, Barbet Schroeder released a new overpoweringly bleak documentary about the Buddhist monk stirring up ethnic hate against Burma’s Rohingya Muslims.
“The Venerable W delivers a nauseous, almost black-comic jab at any liberal who fondly believed that Buddhism and Buddhists somehow float ethereally free of the sectarianism and bigotry that infect any other religion,” Peter Bradshaw wrote in the Guardian on Tuesday, October 10.
The documentary is about Ashin Wirathu who was branded the “Face of Buddhist Terror” by Time magazine.
The orange-clad Buddhist monk and fanatical anti-Muslim activist, who has a huge following, uses social media and unceasing programs of public speaking and DVD propaganda to stir up violent hatred against the Rohingya Muslims.
“At this monk’s instigation, Rohingyas have their villages burned and they are harassed, beaten and killed,” Bradshaw added.
“Wirathu himself drops his quiet mannerisms at the end of the film, for a raucous speech calling the UN human rights envoy Yanghee Lee a “whore” and for an acid interview mocking Angela Merkel.
“Time magazine ran a cover story about Wirathu in 2013, but Schroeder’s movie gives a more substantial, and stomach-turningly intimate study of the man, even more relevant now that Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from grace has focused attention on Myanmar’s [Burma] sectarianism.”
Schroeder’s film persuasively points out that Rohingya persecution is nothing new.
According to Bradshaw, the government’s Operation King Dragon carried out similar actions in the late 1970s: ostensibly a counter-insurgency, but more resembling a pogrom, fueled by the conviction that the territory bordering Bangladesh is rich in mineral deposits.
“Beating up and killing the Muslim minority is a traditional risk-free way of reaffirming Burma’s embattled statehood. And the country’s Buddhist monks are a willing civilian militia,” he added.
“The Venerable W does not explicitly debate the existence of evil as such, but it certainly argues that nationalism, ignorance, arrogance, dogmatic religion and fear are its constituent elements. This is a somber, pessimistic but necessary film.”