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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview with Peter Ackerman, Steve York, Srdja Popovic

Aired March 17, 2002 - 08:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well two weeks from tonight PBS will show a documentary about the downfall of Yugoslavia's former leader Slobodan Milosevic. The filmmakers are with us this morning and are ready to take your questions at wam. That's wam@CNN.com.

These are the three key players: Executive Producer, Peter Ackerman; Director, Producer and Writer, Steve York; and Srdja Popovic, he's a member of parliament of the Serb Republic. All three of these gentlemen put this documentary together.

Hello to all three of you.

Boy I'll tell you, we're getting many e-mails. Miles is sorting them out, but I'm going to begin by having you guys sort of brief bringing down a dictator for us.

Peter, why don't we begin with you, and let's talk about the focus of this documentary.

PETER ACKERMAN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I think the focus of this documentary is what occurred after the Kosovo bombing until Milosevic fell, which was almost 15 months. I think most Americans feel that Milosevic fell because of the bombing, but so much happened in between. And the civilian population was so mobilized by outrage over Milosevic's rule, that ultimately he was taken from power in a very interesting story that I think most Americans don't really know. And that's the point of making this movie.

PHILLIPS: Srdja, tell us about atpor (ph) -- am I saying that correctly?

SRDJA POPOVIC, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT OF THE SERB REPUBLIC: Correctly.

PHILLIPS: OK. Tell us about this word that means, I guess, resistance in Serbia, correct?

POPOVIC: The word atpor means resistance. It was a huge non- violent movement organized and started by a group of students in October of 1998. And for two years it mobilized hundreds of thousands of people giving to the big lesson to the dictator and also showing others that regime whose dictatorship could be removed only by internal powers, not from the outside. And we were good organized, well mobilized. We had a lot of common people with us, and this is why we succeeded in removing the Milosevic from the power in Serbia.

PHILLIPS: And you actually wrote the training manuals for this movement to bring down Slobodan Milosevic, right?

POPOVIC: It was all about pressing -- increasing the pressure and training people how to stay non-violent, even if your opponent is violent. And it has a lot of training stuff, it has a lot to do with mobilizing people and giving them precise instructions. And it has also a lot to do to train people how to behave when they get arrested, when the get beaten. And to stay calm and send a strong message.

PHILLIPS: Steve York, what drew you to work on this film? Obviously, a struggle that was never an even one.

STEVE YORK, DIRECTOR: Well, we had been following -- I had been -- a short history of doing films about non-violent struggle, and therefore had been paying attention to what was going on in Serbia. And when it was clear that there was going to be an election of September of 2000, and it was clear that Milosevic was going to lose the election and it was clear that he wouldn't go easily, that he'd probably try to manipulate or steal the election, the state was clearly set for some kind of -- because of what atpor had been doing and other things that were going on. And the stage was set for some kind of -- it appeared to us -- non-violent resolution of this impasse. And it was a -- we had a pretty good idea that the opposition was going to win and that it was going to be a great story.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's go to an e-mail, shall we gentlemen? There are still some coming in. We're trying to field them as we go.

Dale Friesen has this -- Dale Friesen is one of our more frequent correspondents, and we appreciate that. "How stable is the political situation there now, that a new Serbian state has been carved out of the region?" I'm not sure who wants to take that.

POPOVIC: I will.

O'BRIEN: Good thought.

POPOVIC: Serbian new government is pro democratic. And besides we are making the good moves, we are facing the big challenges. You have 10 years of different anti-Western propaganda in our country. You have a lot of elements of a former system that is very difficult task to move Serbia towards the European -- and 85 percent of my people are pro European and pro (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This is going to be the long and painful work, and we need the support coming from worldwide to get stability inside the country and stability inside the region. And this is -- this is why this film is very important. It shows that people in Serbia are pro European and giving a good example to those who still have to fight for their freedom.

O'BRIEN: Well this might be a good follow up to that question that comes from Hasan Ahmad. "How is it possible that so many people inside Yugoslavia..." -- I guess you'd say the former Yugoslavia now -- "... are still supporting the former dictator, when there is clear evidence that he was involved in genocide?" Would you reject the premise of the question? Is there a lot of support that endures for Slobodan Milosevic?

POPOVIC: I wouldn't say that there is a lot of support for Slobodan Milosevic, but this is the consequence of 10 years of anti- Western propaganda. You can't expect the people to be open after being poisoned for more than 10 years. And, of course, after being isolated, under sanctions and bombed. This is one of the strong points why the movie should be seen -- those bombs. The only strength in Milosevic, as well as the new pressure from my country, will only weaken the democratic powers.

PHILLIPS: Srdja Popovic and Peter Ackerman, also Steve York, I know "Bringing Down a Documentary," it's a one-hour documentary film. It's going to premiere Sunday, March 31st, 10:00 PM on PBS. Check your local listings. Thank you so much, gentlemen, for sharing this project with us. It's fabulous.

POPOVIC: Thank you.

ACKERMAN: Thank you very much.

YORK: Thank you.

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