10 · 22 · 17

Barbet Schroeder presents his film The Venerable W. at the 15th FICM

By: Marco Antonio Mejía

As a Special Guest for the fifteenth edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), French filmmaker Barbet Schroeder presented his film The Venerable W. (2017), which he screened in May at the Cannes Film Festival.

The plot recounts the life of Ashin Wirathu, an influential Buddhist monk in Burma who for decades has led a violent racist persecution against the Muslim minority in that country. Harassed by Wirathu supporters and some government institutions, hundreds of Muslims have died, thousands of houses have been burned and tens of thousands of people have left the country.

Among The Venerable W.‘s awards are those granted at the Melbourne International Film Festival, the New Zealand International Film Festival, the Jerusalem Film Festival and the Moscow International Film Festival.

Daniela Michel, Barbet Schroeder.

Prior to the screening of The Venerable W., Daniela Michel, general director of FICM, presented Barbet Schroeder, who described his journey in Burma, his interest in integrating Latino talent in the film and the difficulties of filming in a clandestine manner.

“In all my projects, I use many Latin participations because that’s how I learn more Spanish. The person in charge of the image and photography, for example, is from Chile. This time I went to Burma without anyone knowing where I was. We were a team of two people in a place where it was necessary to be completely clandestine, like just another tourist.

“After a month, the military police were aware that we were doing some things and they had pictures of us recording Muslim sites, so I knew it was time to leave and I thought I might be able to return with a journalist visa. Later I realized that I would never get it.”

After the screening, there was a Q&A session in which Barbet Schroeder spoke about the genocide that is addressed in The Venerable W., and lamented that a religion like Buddhism is associated to exterminating monks.

“Before coming to this festival, I discovered two interesting studies, one from Yale University and another from an English institution, which affirm that genocide is in progress in Burma. How is it possible that Buddhism, a treasure trove of humanity, can become responsible for a genocide brought on by monks who are behind this process?”

After his trip to Burma, the filmmaker recalled one of the worst moments experienced: “We were in Muslim places but I remember one in specific where they were selling animals for sacrifice, that’s where we realized that there were people who filmed us secretly. After a month, I realized that the military police were not good,” he said to reaffirm the persecution he faced.

Finally, the French filmmaker pointed out that the interviewees gave their version of the facts for the film without there being any manipulation in the comments: “I let people speak, they talked about their truth, that horrible truth, there was not an overshadowing on my part towards them, although the idea became quite dangerous, especially when there is genocide being prepared.”

Between 1958 and 1963, Barbet Schroeder collaborated in the magazines Cahiers du Cinéma and L’Air de Paris. He was assistant to Jean-Luc Godard in the film Les carabiniers (1962) and, with only 23 years of age, in 1963, he founded his production company Les Films du Losange with Éric Rohmer, which made some of the best films of the French New Wave.

Her films include Amnesia (2015), Inju, the Beast in the Shadow (2008), Lavocat de la terreur (2007), Our Lady of the Assassins (2000), Mujer soltera busca (1992), Reversal of Fortune (1990), Barfly (1987), The Charles Bukowski Tapes (1987), Koko, le gorille qui parle (1978), Maîtresse (1975), General Idi Amin Dada (1974), and More (1969) among others.

The Venerable W. will also be screened on Wednesday, October 25th at 4:00 p.m. in theatre 3 of Cinépolis Centro and on Thursday, October 27 at 1:30 p.m. in theatre 2 of Cinépolis Las Américas.