Barbet Schroeder’s most recent documentary, Le Venerable W. (The Venerable W) focuses on Ashin Wirathu, the powerful Buddhist monk in Myanmar who brazenly encourages racism towards Myanmar’s Muslim minority. The director reminds us that evil, the subject of Schroeder’s trilogy, lurks in the seemingly benign. The film exposes the dangerous rhetoric not only of race and nationalism, but also of peace that belies reality.
There’s an odd absence of women in this film. The narrator is Maria de Medeiros, who adopts an indistinct accent and tone that could easily offend Asian women. And there are many women in the film that feature as Wirathu’s audience and subject. Yet, Schroeder, during the Q&A session at the Berlin Film Festival 2018, did not seemed to have pondered about his intriguing choice of the narrator and the conspicuous absence of the speaker.