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South Korea Resumes Propaganda against North Korea; Obama Faces Gun Control Critics in Town Hall; Asylum Seekers Suspected in Cologne Violence; Tensions Rise between Iran and Saudi Arabia; China Turmoil Weighs on Global Markets; Paris Attacker Abdeslam Remains at Large; "Mein Kampf" Goes on Sale in Germany; British Academy Announces BAFTA Nominations. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 8, 2016 - 10:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Happy Friday. Lots to talk about this hour.

There's that flat in Brussels, which police believe was a bombmaking factory ahead of the Paris attacks.

Also BAFTA nominations are out and we're going to get some predictions on the best movies of the year.

But first our top story this hour. U.S. Air Force planes are now sampling the air around secretive North Korea. A U.S. official tells CNN they're

looking for radiation and other evidence after Pyongyang said it tested a hydrogen bomb this week.

Now that set off new talk of more sanctions and South Korea has fired up its blaring propaganda machine. Paula Hancocks has more from Seoul.



PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is South Korea's latest weapon against North Korea: K-pop. It may sound bizarre but Big

Bang's hit song, "Bang, Bang, Bang" has been blasted across the DMZ as part of Seoul's psychological warfare.

Propaganda loudspeakers set up along the most heavily fortified border on Earth, broadcasting anti-regime messages, basic news reports, music and the

message to the people of the North of being lied to by its leaders, all guaranteed to anger Pyongyang.

ANDREI LANKOV, KOOKMIN UNIVERSITY: One of the few measures which the North Korean side takes seriously. And this is exactly why they decided to do

it. They believe it's a kind of soft spot of North Korea.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The loudspeakers were dusted off last summer after a decade of silence. This followed a landmine blast in the DMZ, which

maimed two South Korean soldiers, an incident blamed on the North and rejected by the North.

In August, Pyongyang fired on the loudspeakers, sparking a brief exchange of fire across the border.

But why is a country that's not fazed by international sanctions affected by a loudspeaker?

CHUN YUNG-WOO, SENIOR ADVISOR, ASAN INSTITUTE: The most dangerous virus that could destroy North Korean regime, all the foundations, ideological,

theocratic foundations of North Korean regime, is the truth about North Korea, truth about outside world.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Some defectors say they heard the broadcasts while still in North Korea and it helped them make the decision to escape.

HANCOCKS: They say truth hurts and that is definitely the case in North Korea, an isolated regime that very strictly controls information going in

and out of the country, but appears powerless to stem a dangerous message from the South -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


CURNOW: And now Will Ripley is following all this from inside North Korea. Here's his perspective from the capital, Pyongyang.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If there's one thing we know about the regime here in North Korea is that they very much want to control all of

the information and even the music that their people consume. Listen to this.


This song plays multiple times a day here in Pyongyang. It is to remind the people here of the sacrifices that their leaders have made for them.

Their leaders are everywhere, including on the front page of the state newspaper, where you see Kim Jong-un signing the order authorizing that

nuclear test earlier this week that has triggered so much tension on the Korean Peninsula.

And now a response from the South Korean government, they are blaring their own propaganda on giant loudspeakers across the border between North and

South Korea, known as the demilitarized zone. And those propaganda messages are within earshot of hundreds of thousands of North Korean


This is infuriating for the Pyongyang regime and we still don't have an official response or idea yet of what they might do although over the

summer when the loudspeakers were turned on, they sent troops to the border and the situation escalated almost to the point of an armed conflict.

Meanwhile, we visited a science center in Pyongyang today to talk to young people about this nuclear test and all of them told us that they're very

proud of their country and they believe that the message that their government is telling them, that these nuclear weapons and missile

technology is necessary for North Korea to protect its national sovereignty.

These students told me that they believe that if their government didn't spend so much money on developing these weapons, that their country might

be invaded by the United States and its allies. So it just goes to show the propaganda war on the peninsula is a very real part of life here and it

certainly has a great influence over how things are done -- Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


CURNOW: Our thanks to Will for that report.


CURNOW: Now U.S. President Barack Obama is making headlines after coming face to face with gun control critics at CNN's town hall last night. Now

this week Mr. Obama expanded background checks on gun sales through an executive action, a move that was largely criticized as undermining

lawmakers. Michelle Kosinski has more.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama addressed a crowd split on the issue with a surprising story from his

time on the campaign trail, going through rural Iowa. He says the first lady brought up the subject of guns for protection.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At one point Michelle turned to me and she said, "You know, if I was living in a farmhouse, where the

sheriff's department's pretty far away and somebody can just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I'd want to have a shotgun or a rifle to

make sure that I was protected, my family was protected."

And she was absolutely right.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): He faced tough questions from familiar faces, Taya Kyle, wife of murdered American sniper Chris Kyle; Mark Kelly, husband of

former congresswoman and shooting victim, Gabby Giffords. Kimberly Corban is a rape victim and NRA supporter.

KIMBERLY CORBAN, RAPE SURVIVOR: I have been unspeakably victimized once already. And I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids.

So why can't your administration see that these restrictions that you're putting to make it harder for me to own a gun or harder for me to take that

where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?

OBAMA: There's nothing that we have proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): A conspicuous no-show here?

The NRA itself.

OBAMA: If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top and so overheated, I'm happy to talk to them. But the conversation has to be

based on facts and truth and what we're actually proposing, not some, you know, imaginary fiction, in which Obama's trying to take away your guns.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): It was the Sandy Hook shooting that made President Obama uncharacteristically emotional this week. Now he watched himself

make that speech.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I think people were surprised by that moment.

OBAMA: I was, too, actually. You know, I visited Newtown two days after what happened, so it was still very raw. It's only time I've ever seen

Secret Service cry on duty. And it continues to haunt me. And it was one of the worst days of my presidency.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): And as Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz now campaigns with this image of the president alongside the words, "Obama

wants your guns," many conservatives were riled, offended by his calling that kind of rhetoric a conspiracy, which he somewhat testily defended.

COOPER: Is it fair to call it a conspiracy? I mean --

Well, yes, a lot of people really believe this deeply, that they just don't...

OBAMA: No, no --

COOPER: -- they just don't trust you.

OBAMA: I'm sorry, Cooper, yes. It is fair to call it a conspiracy.

What are you saying?

Are the --


OBAMA: -- are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody's guns away so that we can impose martial law is a



OBAMA: Yes. That is a conspiracy. I would hope that you would agree with that.

Is that controversial?


CURNOW: That was Michelle Kosinski reporting there. And if you missed the CNN exclusive town hall with the U.S. president, urge you to watch it.

International viewers can catch an encore presentation, that's at 7:00 pm in London.

And German officials have identified 31 suspects in the New Year's Eve crimes targeting women in Cologne. They say 18 of them are asylum speakers

and now other European countries are investigating similar complaints.

Kellie Morgan is following developments from London.

Hi, there, Kellie. This is extremely concerning.

Where else have women reported these sex attacks.

And where are the men from?

KELLIE MORGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Robyn, we're hearing reports today that police in Switzerland and Finland said that they've also received

allegations of robbery and sexual assault happening on New Year's Eve just as we have heard in Cologne, they're saying that these incidents happened

in their capital cities, Zurich and Helsinki, that Helsinki police, they were even tipped off that a large group of asylum seekers, largely Iraqi,

the Iraqis is the largest group of migrants that have actually gone to Finland, that those -- these asylum seekers would be gathering and looking

to target women.

They did have a big police presence on the evening but there were no reported attacks at the time. But subsequently we're now hearing of three

attacks, sexual attacks that happened in Helsinki, in Zurich, six women saying that they were sexually assaulted by groups of men, describing them

as having dark skin. So very similar circumstances to what we heard in -- happening in Cologne.


MORGAN: Now today, police have told us that they have arrested two men in Cologne. They are described as young North African men. They're due to

face a magistrate tomorrow.

But as for the other group, the larger group of suspects that have been questioned by police, well, they come, as you say, 18 of them have been

identified as asylum seekers, suspects coming from -- I'll just give you some numbers there. Nine of them are Algerian nationals, eight of them are

Moroccan nationals, five from Iran, four from Syria, they're the main groups -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Well, a huge proportion, we know, of migrants and refugees coming into Europe are young, single men, Kellie, from countries -- some of

those countries you've just listed -- women are not as free, not as respected as they are in Europe.

I mean, when is that conversation -- that debate is now being had in Europe? This is as much about integration into societies as it is about

criminal behavior, isn't it?

MORGAN: Well, yes, Robyn. And the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, herself touched on this, saying that these sexual assaults that happened on

New Year's Eve were really an issue of coexistence of cultures. She herself described these acts as intolerable and that basically anyone who

doesn't adhere to German law, that there will be a very clear sign sent to those people who don't uphold those values.

The justice minister went further, basically saying that there is provision within German law to deport anyone who's seeking asylum who has been found

guilty and convicted or convicted of sex crime and spends a year or more in jail.

Well, they can be deported. But certainly, the debate is raging. The police have come under a huge amount of criticism about the handling of

these attacks in across Germany. And really that debate about the -- about immigration is really at the heart of it -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Indeed. Kelly Morgan in London, thanks so much.

You are watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Ahead, CNN's exclusive visit to the hometown of a Saudi cleric whose execution sparked outrage among Shias

in Saudi Arabia and Iran. We'll hear from the cleric's brother.

Plus, find out who did and who didn't get nominated for a prestigious BAFTA film award and whether the list might be a preview of the Oscars.




CURNOW: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Now the International Red Cross says an aid convoy should reach the Syrian city of Madaya within days. Graphic images which CNN hasn't independently

confirmed show the level of suffering there.

This week, the United Nations said it received credible reports of people dying of starvation in Madaya. Officials say the aid convoy could feed

40,000 people for a month but they caution regular access is needed. The besieged city has been cut off --


CURNOW: -- since July surrounded by Syrian government forces and Hezbollah. Officials also want to deliver aid to two towns loyal to the

Syrian regime but besieged by rebel forces. One says guaranteeing safe passage into all areas will be complex and difficult.

Now Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shiite cleric triggered widespread outrage in Iran and further enflamed Sunni-Shia tensions. Nic Robertson

met with the cleric's brother during an exclusive visit to his hometown in Eastern Saudi Arabia to get perspective on what's been happening. Nic is

back in Riyadh and joins me now.

Hi, there, Nic. Tell us about your journey.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Robyn, this was a journey that government officials were a bit worried about us taking.

They really feel that the town that we were going to, Awamia, is one that is dangerous; certainly the officials with us were really chilled at the

thought that they might have to drive in there.

What we were finally allowed to do, though, was to go in but only with the police in their heavily armored vehicles.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): As we approach what's become Saudi Arabia's most dangerous town, a digger dumped by the townspeople gouging out a sectarian

divide, cutting themselves off from the rest of the country.

It is the Shia town of Awamia, the hometown of executed Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

ROBERTSON: The police have told us it's not safe for us to drive our own vehicles here. We're in one of their armored personnel carrier. They say

it's too dangerous for us to get outside the vehicle. Just around here they say, they get shot at. A couple of officers have been killed right



ROBERTSON (voice-over): An online video -- we can't be sure when it was shot -- purports to be a police convoy just like ours under attack here.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): In a nearby hospital, we visit a young victim of the violence. He's clinging to life, caught in the crossfire between

police and the men they call terrorists.

ROBERTSON: He says his son's name is Mohammed (ph), he's 8 years old. But his father doesn't want to be on camera. He's very concerned about it.

And what we have been told by authorities here is that if he appears on camera, then when he goes back into Awamia, he'd face problems.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Victims of the rising violence are increasingly common here. This man beaten in Awamia. He is a Shia. Shows me his

injuries, shot in the ankle, his wrist broken and stabbed in the head.

He tells me his kidnappers accused him of being a government spy, which he denies.

Our drive through Awamia, however, is proving uneventful. Shops are open. No one shoots at us, shocking the police.

But not everyone is so surprised.

ROBERTSON: Al-Nimr's brother has contacted us here. He says it is safe to get out of the vehicle and go and meet with him. He's been calling for


ROBERTSON (voice-over): We meet later in a nearby town. He defends his brother, whom the government accuses of inciting the violence.

MOHAMMED AL-NIMR, BROTHER OF EXECUTED CLERIC (through translator): There's a real problem in this country between the Shia and the government. It's a

political problem about the rights of the Shias.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Since 2011, tensions in this tiny town of 25,000 people have grown. Confrontations between handfuls of youth and police

have sometimes turned deadly. Protesters hit by live rounds. Police say they want to avoid civilian casualties and arrest the people they call


BRIG. GEN. MAMOUR AL-TURKI (PH), SAUDI ARABIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: If we want to engage these people directly, then we know

there will be victims. That is not allowed, actually, in our job. So we have to work patiently.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In Awamia, time is on no one's side as tensions here and across the region rise.


ROBERTSON: Now about 10 percent of the population of Saudi Arabia are Shia and a lot of them are in the east of the country, where we were visiting

yesterday. We visited a lot of other Shia communities around there.

The one that the police took us to under sort of armed escort, if you will, is the only one that's like that. All the others are calm and look and

feel like pretty much like every other town in Saudi Arabia.

And, interestingly, just a few hours after we left that town that we were taken to, well, there were huge explosions reported and a lot of gunfire

breaking out -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Just underscoring the fragility of all of this.

So with that in mind, critics of Saudi Arabia are saying the decision to execute this cleric was a miscalculation or, even worse, a deliberate

provocation. I mean, the implications have spread across the region now.


ROBERTSON: Well, the Saudis see it this way. And the spokesman at the interior ministry told me, he said whether it's Shia or Sunni, if they're

behind violence -- and they believe that al-Nimr was inspiring violence -- that if they're behind violence, then they will be treated the same way,

whether it's ISIS, whether it's Al Qaeda or whether it's Shia.

So by their calculation and by their standards, when they executed Nimr al- Nimr over the weekend, they executed 46 other people, three were Shia and the others were all Sunnis.

So, again, from the Saudi perspective, they feel that they were doing something that was in the bounds of the norms for them. And I don't think

that they were going to be particularly worried about what Iran's reaction or their country's reaction was going to be.

They feel, they say and the foreign minister has said this in response to international criticism, that they have a fair and just justice system with

the right for appeals.

Now, certainly, other international organizations have expressed concern and say they don't -- they would not agree with that type of statement.

But from a Saudi perspective, what they have done here is showed that if from their mind that they will not accept any kind of inspiration for

violence or violence on the streets. And they will take the consequences that come with such actions.

CURNOW: Thanks so much, Nic. Nic there in Riyadh. Appreciate it.

Well, you're watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Much more news after the break. Stick around for that.




CURNOW: Well, U.S. stocks are starting off Friday on a calmer note after a pretty horrible, pretty wobbly start to the year. In early trading --

there are the numbers -- the Dow Industrials are up over 10 points. This follows, of course, a rebound for stocks in China and a late-day selloff in


One big driver for today's activity, these numbers in the U.S., the December jobs report. The economy created almost 300,000 jobs, far

exceeding analysts' expectations. Wages grew, too, another sign the U.S. economy is on the rebound.

But China's markets closed early twice this week after plunging 7 percent. The Shanghai Composite ended this year's first week's trading down 10

percent. Matt Rivers takes us through the turmoil.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first trading day of the year and the first time a brand-new circuit breaker goes into effect.

A new manufacturing report is out, showing persistent weakness in the Chinese economy. Stock markets drop in response, enough to trigger the

circuit breaker for the first time ever. It's meant to give the markets a breather. It has the opposite effect.

Chinese stocks keep falling when trading resumes and fall so far that trading ends early. And the selling spreads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every market has been affected by the selloff.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, there is no market that is spared this morning. It's not just the Dow; everything is deep in the


RIVERS: Things stabilized Tuesday and Wednesday. The central bank pumps $20 billion in to the financial system to calm investor nerves. But

ultimately it doesn't work. Heavy selling resumes on Thursday, this time, set off by the Chinese yuan being set at its weakest level in five years, a

move meant to help exporters.


RIVERS: The circuit breakers are triggered again, the second time in one week. China again stops trading for the day, abruptly closing less than 30

minutes in. The dramatic move rattles investors around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of these markets opened sharply down, as you can see those losses.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: It's the worst four-day start to a year on record.

RIVERS: Beijing takes more steps to help, pumping another $10.6 billion into the money markets, announcing new rules to limit stock sales, more of

the same. But unexpectedly, Beijing announces late Thursday night it is suspending the circuit breakers after just four days.

The response on Friday: overall, positive. But if you look below the surface, the Chinese stock market swung wildly up and down throughout the


This was a week that saw China's regulators try to get a handle on volatility and fail. Analysts say there are growing doubts over the

government's ability to stabilize shares in a market that is already heavily controlled by Beijing -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Beijing.


CURNOW: Yes. What a week. Thanks to Matt for that report.

Now a blanket of fog and smoke -- I'm sorry. I'm going to say that again because I smushed those words up.

A blanket of fog and smog is delaying planes and trains in New Delhi. Levels of dangerous microscopic particles in the air are off the charts and

more than 15 times what the World Health Organization considers safe.

At the start of the new year, India's capital began a test of an alternate day plan for private vehicles. The effort has reduced the number of cars

on the road but not the pollution.

Lots coming up after this short break. Stay with us.





CURNOW: Welcome back. You are watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Here's a check of the headlines.


CURNOW: We are learning new information about France's most wanted terrorist. A fingerprint belonging to Saleh Abdeslam was found in a

Brussels apartment along with materials to make explosives. Abdeslam is a suspect in the November Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people.

Well, let's get right to it. Erin McLaughlin joins me now from the French capital.

So what we are hearing here is a bomb-making factory and a fugitive who's slipped through the net more than once.

What else are we hearing?

ERIC MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A source with knowledge of the investigation had told CNN of the so-called bomb-making factory, that was

found in an apartment in Brussels; in that apartment authorities found explosives, specifically, TATP, as well as sewing machines and other


But today the Brussels prosecutor announcing that inside that apartment they also found the fingerprint of Saleh Abdeslam, the alleged so-called

eighth attacker.

Now we had known per a source with knowledge of the investigation that Abdeslam's DNA had been found on a suicide belt that was discovered

following the attacks in a Paris suburb, authorities working off of the theory that he somehow decided to change his mind.

He was going to carry out an attack but changed his mind and fled and his last known location is Brussels. Actually, it's the very same area that

this apartment is located in.

Now we know from the prosecutor this morning that the apartment authorities had raided on December 10th; we know that the attacks, of course, were

November 13th. So the question no of course becomes when did Saleh Abdeslam leave that fingerprint, before or after the attacks?

But one thing is clear, the evidence is mounting as to why Saleh Abdeslam now is known as France's most wanted man.

CURNOW: And, Erin, also fingerprints also focus on the investigation into that Thursday attack at a police station in Paris.

What do we know about that?

MCLAUGHLIN: That's right, Robyn. The alleged attacker that carried out allegedly that attack on the police station in Paris and a failed attack

yesterday, a knife attack in which they shot the individual dead, well, authorities, prosecutor in a radio interview this morning saying that they

managed to take the fingerprint from that man and they have traced it to an individual authorities believe they detained in the south of France months


But the thing is, the identity of the man that they detained in the south of France months ago is different to the information that was on the body

of the alleged attacker. When they detained the man in the south of France, he said that he was Moroccan.

On the paper found on the body yesterday, well, he said that he was from Tunisia so authorities still working to try and determine his identity.

But they do seem to be working off of the theory that it was a lone wolf- style attack, which, of course, presents a huge problem, the style of attack, to authorities here in France -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, indeed. Erin McLaughlin in Paris, thanks so much.

Well, Hitler's infamous manifesto, "Mein Kampf" -- translated that means "My Struggle" -- is now in bookstores in Germany. It's rolled off the

presses for the first time since World War II after its copyright protection expired last month.

The original book was used to facilitate the murder of millions of people but this new edition of Nazi ideology is apparently different. The

publisher says it's heavily annotated to expose its lies and help readers understand it as a matter of history.

Now despite the book's horrific --


CURNOW: -- role in the past, Susanne Sproer says modern Germany has no need to fear. She heads Deutsche Welle's culture online team and joins us

now live from Bonn.

Thanks so much.

I mean, is this not irresponsible?

Why is this not irresponsible?

Hitler's ideas justified the killing of 6 million Jews.

SUSANNE SPROER, DEUTSCHE WELLE: Well, this is absolutely true. It would be irresponsible if a publishing house had published only the wording of

Hitler's pamphlet. But it's not like that. You have already mentioned that, Robyn.

The edition which has been published to date and which will be on sale in the German bookstores from today on is an annotated edition and the

original wording is 2,500 pages and annotations are 3,700. So the book is the double volume, more or less and I think this is very important and

that's why it's good that we do have this edition and that the publication came on the market today.

But in this form as it is, come on the market as an annotated edition, which has been thoroughly worked for the last four years from historians

from the German Institute for Contemporary History.

So I think this is -- it's a good thing because it would have come on the market anyway. So I think the good thing is that we have got this

annotated, heavily annotated edition, which puts it in the historic context and also shows the lies in the book, the half-truth and, yes, makes the

whole evil content open to the public.

CURNOW: With that in mind, in the public, who's going to buy it?

Who do you think wants to read it?

SPROER: Yes. That's a very interesting question.

The publishers say the book is aimed to historic researchers. But I personally know that people, for example, in the education sector are

interested. A friend of mine, he is a history teacher and he tried to get the book because he wanted to work with it with his students.

The print edition has only been 4,000 so he couldn't get one because I think there are a lot of people working in this research sector, who want

to get the original book because -- and this is, I think, a very important thing to say: the publication in Germany had been forbidden.

But in terms of Internet, you could get it with a few clicks. So it'll take you five minutes to Google it and then everybody can read the content

without any annotation, without any historical information adding to it.

And I think that's why it's a very good thing to sort of draw it out of this sinister Internet fascination and to discuss it in an open public.

But, well, we will see who's going to read it and -- but I personally think it will be more historically interested public and not the everyday German.

CURNOW: OK. Thank you so much, Susanne Sproer there.

We know one Jewish American leader said the book should be consigned to the poison cabinet of history and that it's an insult to Hitler's victims. So

no doubt very controversial move either way. But thank you so much for joining us, adding to that debate.

You're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Still to come, the BAFTA nominations are out.


CURNOW (voice-over): There's quite a battle brewing for best actor and best film. We'll look at who might have the best chance for a win at the

prestigious British film awards.




CURNOW: Welcome back.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has announced its nominees for the BAFTA awards, the best movies in 2015.


STEPHEN FRY, ACTOR: And the nominations for best film are "The Big Short" --


FRY: -- "Bridge of Spies," "Carol," "The Revenant" and "Spotlight."


CURNOW (voice-over): American period dramas are actually leading the way. "Carol," a lesbian romance film set in the 1950s starring Cate Blanchett is

out front.

Alongside Steven Spielberg's Cold War drama, "Bridge of Spies." Both are up for nine awards.

In the leading actress category, the nominees are Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander, Saoirse Ronan and Maggie Smith.

And the nominated for leading actor -- Eddie Redmayne, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender and Matt Damon and Bryan Cranston.

Winners will be announced at London's Royal Opera House on February the 14th.

So who has got the best chances and is the list a good predictor of the Oscars?

Well, let's bring in film critic Richard Fitzwilliams at our London bureau for his take on the nominations.

I have my favorites. But let's look into the crystal ball.

Who are you going to put your money on?

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, FILM CRITIC: Well, I think for best film it's likely to be "Spotlight," a docudrama which was about the exposure of child abuse

in Boston amongst the clergy. It is a superb film that's absolutely brilliant.

But it is undoubtedly threatened by "The Revenant," which is -- one would call it a survival western, set in the 19th century. And "Carol" as an

outsider also has a chance. "Bridge of Spies," two wonderfully crafted. "The Big Front" (ph) has superb black comedy about financial crisis. Very,

very high standard but I go for "Spotlight" for best film.

For best actor, now that really is going to be a thrilling race because we expect it to be DiCaprio's year, playing a survivor who, so to speak, all

but comes back from the dead in "The Revenant," he is faced by a challenge from -- by Eddie Redmayne, who won last year for playing Professor Stephen


This year he plays a transgender figure. And this was an operation that Lili Elbe had, that was unique at the time, in "The Danish Girl." He gives

a brilliant performance and if he were to win, there only has been one other case -- that's Colin Firth -- of an actor winning two years' running.

That is, I think, going to be the focus of a great deal of attention and rightly so.

CURNOW: Indeed. And it's beautifully shot. Really captures Copenhagen, one of my favorite cities.

Best actress?

FITZWILLIAMS: Best actress, too close to call because Brie Larson, who has been kidnapped with her son and is held in a room by a psychopath in the

room is absolutely superb but so is Ronan, on an adolescent's journey in Brooklyn, also brilliant. Don't let's forget Cate Blanchett, who could --

I missed Charlotte Rampling in "45 Years," her best performance to date, a surprising omission. But too close to call, I would say, between Brie

Larson and Saoirse Ronan, all excellent, including Alicia Vikander, who is nominated twice and deserves special plaudits, who plays both the wife of

the transgender pioneer in the Danish government and a robot in "Ex Machina."

CURNOW: Well, yes. That's quite a stretch, isn't it. But I mean, really, some fantastic movies out there. And of course the Golden Globes are on

Sunday so we might even talk to you on Monday about who won there. But thanks so much for your predictions. Appreciate it.


CURNOW: Richard Fitzwilliams, appreciate it.

Well, that does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Robyn Curnow. "WORLD SPORT" is up next.