The Venerable W.
Impact | VIFF Impact
With Buddhist monk, unrepentant Islamophobe and avowed Trump admirer Ashin Wirathu serving as our frightening guide, legendary filmmaker Barbet Schroeder’s (General Idi Amin Dada, Terror’s Advocate) riveting—and tragically current—documentary embeds us in a Myanmar where violence and ethnic "purification" are being fuelled by the incendiary, so-called "religious" rhetoric spouted by the man granted the honorific "The Venerable" (an irony not lost on the filmmaker). A powerful public speaker shown inciting crowds to anti-Islamic violence, Wirathu, when questioned, comes across as a calm, "post-truth" analyst of what he sees as his country’s ills, making him a doubly chilling figure. Interweaving interviews with Wirathu, his supporters and victims, and journalists with on-the-ground amateur footage, some of it quite graphic in its depiction of xenophobic brutality, Schroeder invites us to stare into the face of intolerance and leaves us questioning whether any of us have the luxury of turning a blind eye to such heinous conduct.
"Shot on the hoof, under the noses of a repressive regime, The Venerable W. is a fine, stirring documentary about ethnic cleansing in action… It’s the shocking disjunct between [Wirathu’s] religion and the rabid nationalism of his sermons, writings and declarations that powers Schroeder’s conventional but nevertheless effective long hard stare into the eyes of intolerance."—Lee Marshall, Screen