Return to Transcripts main page
New Optimism from Assad's Supporters; Backed by Russia, Syrian Regime Advances on Aleppo; Mark Ruffalo Shines "Spotlight" on Church Abuse; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired February 8, 2016 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: redrawing Syria's battlefield map; as Assad's forces make gains, another tide of refugees
flees but is trapped at the Turkish border.
Also ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL KEATON, ACTOR, "ROBBY ROBINSON": You're going to give me the names and the names of their victims.
BILLY CRUDUP, ACTOR, "ERIC MACLEISH": Are you threatening me?
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The power of good journalism to uncover the truth. Actor Mark Ruffalo and director Tom McCarthy on their Oscar-nominated film,
"Spotlight," which is about exposing the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
Trapped on Syria's border with Turkey tonight, tens of thousands of people are fleeing Aleppo, Syria's second city, as it is pounded by Russia's air
force, which is allowing Assad's troops to retake ground and cut the opposition's last major supply route into Aleppo.
This is causing another humanitarian crisis for Turkey, which already shelters more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees. And it won't let anymore
in until, quote, "it's necessary," which is what the prime minister said today.
Meanwhile, the visiting German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that she's alarmed and appalled at Russia's bombing campaign, which the U.N. has
already blamed for scuppering the latest attempt at peace talks in Geneva.
Russia may help force the bloodiest turning point in Syria's five-year war, which is what their ally, President Assad, is banking on. Fred Pleitgen,
our senior international correspondent, is in Damascus with more tonight.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Syrian army's recent advances against rebel groups have bolstered the
Assad regime's position and they have clearly also had an impact here, in government-controlled Damascus.
More traffic, more people out on the streets and more optimism among regime supporters.
"Things are getting better, thanks to the leadership of President Assad," this man says, "and thanks to the Syrian army and the paramilitary forces."
And this man adds, "Our army is winning. It's a strong army and it's protected by God."
But for much of last year, the Syrian government was losing ground; various rebel factions closed in on government strongholds in the north and the
south of the country. But Russian airpower and help from pro-Iranian militias appear to be turning the tide in this five-year conflict, leading
some to question the point of diplomacy.
PLEITGEN: While the U.N. and the United States continue to say that only diplomacy can solve the Syrian crisis, an increasing number people here in
government-controlled territory seem to believe that there could be a military solution to the conflict. That is, if Bashar al-Assad's army can
build on the gains it's made in recent weeks.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the government's offensive comes at a high price, tens of thousands fleeing toward the Turkish border, looking to
escape the onslaught.
Meanwhile, speculation that Assad's main adversaries, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, might be planning incursions into Northern Syria, leading to this
warning from the foreign minister.
"Any troops that invade our territory will go home in wooden coffins," Walid Muallem said.
And even on the streets of Damascus, not everyone is sure the government's momentum will carry on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's going to end like any soon and I don't think anyone is willing. I think it's a no-win. I don't know. It's
my personal opinion.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Even with the optimism brought on by the recent gains, one thing remains the same for Syrians, the uncertainty of what the
future will bring -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Damascus.
AMANPOUR: Well, this shifting tide flies in the face of what the U.S. and its allies was counting on.
Karin von Hippel was chief of staff to U.S. General John Allen when he was Washington's special envoy in the war against ISIS. She's now the head of
London's respected RUSI think tank. And I asked her whether the United States had any good options to stop Russia enforcing the rules of
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program. And let me first start by asking you --
AMANPOUR: -- we just heard from our Fred Pleitgen that there is a new sense of optimism and military hope in Damascus.
That's justified, isn't it, given what Russia is doing to help the Assad regime?
KARIN VON HIPPEL, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: I suppose it's justified to some degree. But don't forget the reason the
Russians came in in the first place is the Assad regime was about to crumble.
And so you have a very weak Assad regime being bolstered by Russian outside support and Iranian support. So the regime itself is not strong.
AMANPOUR: Except that they have had the power now to torpedo what the whole world wants, which is a political process; the secretary-general
himself took the unusual diplomatic stance and blamed Russia for the collapse of the Geneva talks so far.
So what is going to change that situation?
VON HIPPEL: Well, I mean, if we look at Aleppo, in the unlikely event that they manage to fully encircle Aleppo -- and don't forget, this has, you
know, been on the cards for a couple years now and no one has been able to do it.
In the unlikely event that they do encircle Aleppo, I don't think they'll be able to hold Aleppo. So what you'll have in Aleppo is a very dangerous
power vacuum because, as you said earlier, all the moderate Syrian opposition partners have been fleeing or have been killed.
And so you're going to end up with a very dangerous power vacuum on the ground. And we all know what happens with power vacuums.
But can I just ask you, because you were obviously chief of staff to General Allen, who was tasked with this fight against ISIS but, of course,
part of that is, I guess, the fight against Assad as well.
What does the United States do, now that, to all intents and purposes, Russia controls the skies or at least is having the most impact with its
airstrikes on the battlefield?
VON HIPPEL: Right. They are having an impact right now but it is very expensive for them.
And they're also targeting -- they're targeting partners, the Qataris, the Saudis, the Turks as well as partners of the U.S., U.K. and other
countries. And so I wouldn't be surprised if, over the next few weeks, we see some Russian helicopter gunships shot down.
It's going to get very messy and it could escalate in really bad ways in the coming weeks.
AMANPOUR: Could I say that seems to be a strategy kind of based on wishful thinking and hope; perhaps you hope that there are some pain caused to the
Russians to cause them to rethink.
But let me just play for you a little bit of an interview I did with the Kurdish prime minister about what he sees as the real U.S. and Western
strategy against ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NECHERVAN BARZANI, PRIME MINISTER, IRAQI KURDISTAN: Look, until now, what we see, the policy is not to destroy ISIL really. It's about to contain.
So to destroy the ISIL, on the ground, we need more help. We need more assistance, military assistance from international community and especially
from European and American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So to me, I don't know whether you agree with that but obviously the Russians are not attacking ISIS in the way that the West thought they
would and what they said. And it appears to those who are actually fighting ISIS, like the Kurds, that the U.S. still hasn't decided to
VON HIPPEL: No, I think the U.S. is very much dedicated to destroying ISIS in Iraq and Syria. There's no doubt about that. The U.S., the U.K. and
other countries are.
Their issue is that the Russian intervention has made it so much more complicated. The Russians are really using indiscriminate bombing; U.S.,
U.K. and other forces don't use cluster bombs, dumb bombs, that the Russians are using and so they're causing so much collateral damage they're
making the airspace that much more complicated for Western planes and others to carry on the campaign.
And so it's really just causing so much more mayhem on the ground than I think people have had anticipated.
AMANPOUR: Even those opposition forces that the West have been trying to support are being attacked by the Russians.
So what would you advise in this fight against ISIS, which is also presumably a fight against Assad?
VON HIPPEL: Yes, I mean it's -- there are -- they're intermingling now.
I mean, I would say the West needs to put a lot of pressure on the Russians and probably provide more support to the few moderate armed actors that are
still on the ground.
For the last four years, the U.S., the U.K. and other Western countries have been supporting moderate Syrians in the north, in Aleppo and in that
area. They're paying the salaries of about 20,000 municipal workers, garbage men, police, you know, civil defense workers and others.
And those are the very people that need to stay inside Syria so that when the lights are turned on, when there is a political agreement, you will
have some people to turn to who can keep government running.
And what I'm really worried about is these people that will either get killed by the Russian bombing or they'll be forced to flee. And then you
will have nothing left on the ground, no partners to work with on the day after.
And it really is -- it's serious blowback and the Russians --
VON HIPPEL: I don't think the Russians actually care.
AMANPOUR: All right. Karin von Hippel, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
VON HIPPEL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And to that point, far from bending to any pressure, the Russians have said in their latest statement that they don't see any need
to stop the bombing anytime soon.
And now with thousands of refugees also stuck at Syria's border with Jordan, just a note about how some are trying to find a silver lining, like
Syria's national wrestling champion, who's now himself a refugee at the Zaatari camp.
He's teaching many of the troubled and sad kids there his sport and the values of his sport, like he said, not to hurt anyone if you have the
When we come back, the film wrestling with a horror that was once hidden in plain sight. The incredible story of how "The Boston Globe" blew the lid
off systematic child abuse in the Catholic Church. The film is "Spotlight," it has been nominated for several Oscars and next I interview
its star, Mark Ruffalo, and its director, Tom McCarthy.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
"Spotlight" has been Oscar-nominated; it is the Oscar-nominated movie about the child sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. It got an unusual
screening this weekend -- at the Vatican, no less.
Members of a commission to protect children watched the film, which follows a team of "Boston Globe" journalists 15 years ago, uncovering the sheer
magnitude of the crisis and the systematic cover-up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK RUFFALO, ACTOR, "MIKE REZENDES": So I can just walk into that courthouse right now and get those documents?
STANLEY TUCCI, ACTOR, "MITCHELL GARABEDIAN": No. You cannot. Because the documents are not there.
"MIKE REZENDES": But you just said they're public.
"MITCHELL GARABEDIAN": I know I did. But this is Boston. And the church does not want them to be found. So they are not there.
"MIKE REZENDES": Are you telling me that the Catholic Church removed legal documents from that courthouse?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Actor Mark Ruffalo is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his dramatic portrayal of one of the leading journalists on the story. He
joins me now from Los Angeles, along with the film's director, Tom McCarthy, who is also nominated for an Oscar.
Gentleman, welcome to you both. This is really an extraordinary story.
I guess I want to first start by asking you, Mark, what draw you -- what drew you to want to portray this character in this film?
RUFFALO: Well, it started with the script. I found it really beautifully written and powerful. And then the character is really kind of the
essential great journalist. And we rarely get to see journalists that are really getting the job done in movies.
And we rarely get to see how powerful journalism can be when it actually is doing what we want it to do. And I thought that this story and this
character was a real way to open up this debate, not even a debate but really shed some light on these abuses that have been going on for so long
and have been really nothing more than covered up.
AMANPOUR: And let me ask you, Tom, obviously, I could --
AMANPOUR: -- go on listening for hours, to how great it is to have good journalism. I obviously believe the same as you do.
But what did it say to you, what sparked your interest, particularly in this corner of investigative journalism?
TOM MCCARTHY, FILM DIRECTOR: Well, look, as a writer and as a director, like Mark, I just found the material incredibly compelling. It's a very
entertaining story about a very dark matter. And I thought approaching this matter through the eyes of the journalist was really exciting.
No one really knew that story about this investigation and how they broke this. This was a local story in Boston. And it has global impact. It's
still going on today, as we know.
The pope's commission just watched the film. They're talking about it. There's a lot of conversation coming out of that.
And I just felt it was one of those few films that had the potential to be incredibly entertaining but really have an impact, be about a couple of
things, survivors and what they have experienced and what they continue to experience and also journalism. So it just seemed like one of those
And if we could do it right, it would have a great impact.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, because I want to know what you actually think might be the result of the film and of the commission that screened
it in the Vatican, first, were you surprised?
Mark, you tweeted about it.
Do you both think, do you hope, are you skeptical that it will have a lasting effort in ensuring the transparency that everybody wants but also
really holding those guilty and accountable, accountable?
RUFFALO: To be totally honest with you, the -- some kind of alarming things have happened in the past few days.
One of the victims that sits on the pope's council for the abused was basically put on a leave of absence without him knowing it. It doesn't
bode well and he feels that right now the church is just engaging in the same kind of obfuscation.
It does appear, kind of a bit, like they're doing a nice PR push to quell the pressure that this movie is creating but not really going through what
the steps that it's going to take to right the wrongs.
They haven't really put together the tribunal that the pope promised was going to happen in order to start holding the people accountable for these
crimes that should be held accountable.
AMANPOUR: I want --
MCCARTHY: -- I want to make it clear that they've made some progress on this, that they've made some progress. But I think activists would
certainly be calling for more action and more transparency.
And Peter Saunders, who's a U.K. citizen, who is a survivor of clerical abuse, who was asked to step off the council because he's outspoken,
because he's making -- he's crying for more transparency and more action and, faster, faster, faster, as the stakes of the welfare children are --
obviously, there's no greater stake.
So I think this is -- what's most exciting is that the film is creating some discussion, obviously. And this is what we're looking for. I think
this platform is very, very necessary right now.
AMANPOUR: I want to play for you a little clip from the film, which goes to the whole issue of transparency and urgency. And then we'll talk about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
"MIKE REZENDES": It's time, Robbie. It's time. They knew. And they let it happen to kids.
It could have been you. It could have been me. It could have been any of us. We got to nail these scumbags. We got to show people that nobody can
get away with this, not a priest or a cardinal or a freaking pope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that is truly dramatic.
And, Mark, your character is imploring the head of the investigative unit, the Spotlight unit, to go with this story.
So while we talk about, you know, the great job journalists did in eventually uncovering this and particularly "The Boston Globe," obviously,
there was a time, too long of a time, wasn't there, that journalists knew that something was up and actually sort of, if you like, buried the story.
RUFFALO: Yes, you know, that's the sad part of the story. But it's all of us. It wasn't just journalists. It had to be politicians, it had to be
the legislature, it had to be the communities, the families in power. It's really a problem of all of us and it's really about personal
And so, you know, culturally, we get to a place where we're ready to have a really hard discussion. And I think that's where we are right now.
This movie didn't just pop out, out of the blue. It sort of came out of a need for the culture --
RUFFALO: -- to have this discussion, at this moment in time, with this particular pope and a greater illumination that's happening throughout the
world on these kinds of issues. It's -- they did a good job of hiding it.
But the days of hiding these kinds of issues are gone now. I mean, the Internet, people's ability to speak directly to one another, it's created
this decentralized kind of information nexus that makes these kinds of stories finally have a powerful way of being told.
And so, yes, it's a shame that that happened. But here we are today. We know the truth and we know the truth culturally. It's no longer a story
that's in a small segment of the population. We all know about it now.
So now we get to act on it. And that's difference between then and now.
AMANPOUR: And just talking about how, you know, quote, "we all knew about it," there's a chilling scene, Tom, that you captured brilliantly of the
character playing Cardinal Law, talking to the character playing Marty Baron, who was the new head of "The Boston Globe," Cardinal Law saying, you
know, well, we're all stronger when all the great institutions work together.
And Marty Baron saying, well, actually, no, we, the press, have to stay apart.
That is so much about so many issues that the press has to deal with, including politics, right?
MCCARTHY: Right. Yes, I think it's what makes the film especially relevant today, right, is that it's dealing with accountability and
transparency of all institutions. And it's also letting us know why a free and healthy press is so important because it does stand apart.
It does hold powerful individuals accountable and it provides the citizens with the information they need to choose to act or not.
And I think that's ultimately what the film's aspiring to talk to and to speak to. And I think, honestly, it's why it's been connecting because it
even goes beyond this one particular crime, which, of course, is very heinous, the abuse within the Catholic Church. But it speaks to all
institutions today and I think, ultimately, asks the bigger question: what can we do?
What's our part in this?
What's my personal responsibility in this as citizens?
And I think that's, in some ways, an incredibly hopeful message of this film, that we can effect change.
AMANPOUR: Can I just turn to another issue that Mark's involved in, talking about, you know, what can we do?
What can citizens do?
Mark, you have another mission, which is to stop fracking. You were very prominent in the New York anti-fracking movement and you've just released a
video message to Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, where they're considering -- let me just play a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUFFALO: Not only that, but your people don't want it. You have already told them once before that, if they didn't want it, you wouldn't push them
to take it. And you're turning back on your word, sir.
And what is a politician if he's not credible?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mark, that's also about talking truth to power, holding power accountable, but also about your passion in this regard.
RUFFALO: Well, yes, my passion regard comes from the places that I've visited where I've seen this destroy communities, destroy water, pollute
the air. It's -- yes, it's personal but it's all personal to us. When you bring this into a community, it doesn't just sit in that community. Water
moves, air moves. And so the costs become socialized.
And, yes, it starts personally. I mean, I was living in this area where this was going to happen. And that's where I learned about it. And that's
why it's so important that we listen to the people on the front lines.
That's why it's so important that we listen to those communities in London and England and the surrounding areas that don't want this because they're
the ones who are living with it.
And, oftentimes, those are the people that we -- that are ignored. Their voices aren't heard. A lot of times, we live in rural areas. They're the
working poor, they're the poor; in America, it's a lot of places of people of color. This is the front lines and we don't do a very good job of
talking about the people on the front lines.
And we could do a lot better job. So I happen to have a voice because of my position in the world, where I can actually grab a spotlight for a
moment and throw it onto them. And that's been very effective. Don't listen to me, listen to the people who are dealing with it. They are much
more eloquent about it --
RUFFALO: -- and powerful.
AMANPOUR: All right. Mark Ruffalo, Tom McCarthy, thank you so much.
And just one final word on "Spotlight," you have shown also how incredibly pervasive it was. You end with a scroll that we're going to show right now
of all the towns and cities in the United States and elsewhere around the world, where there had been those sex abuse abominations against children.
So thank you for the film and we wish you lots of luck at the Oscars. Thank you both, indeed, for joining us.
MCCARTHY: Thank you very much. It's great to be here.
RUFFALO: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And after a break, a different type of art breeds new life into one of today's stories. Denmark's Royal Ballet leaps into action, giving a
voice to asylum seekers. That's next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine a world of horror and hardship transformed into one of beauty and understanding. That's the "pointe" made
by the Danish Royal Ballet's latest work.
As the world's third oldest ballet company jetes into one of the world most difficult crises, featuring actual refugees in its production of "Europa,"
an asylum seeker's ballet. It's designed to tell each of their real-life stories while on a three-week tour of Denmark.
However, since the project has begun, two have had their asylum applications rejected and one has gone into hiding, while one was expelled
from Denmark but still takes part via Skype from France. The remaining six have fled persecution and war in Syria, Pakistan, Eritrea, Myanmar and
Now opening just three days after a new Danish law allowed police to seize cash and valuables from refugees, "Europa" was a sellout even before it
debuted and had to be extended due to popular demand.
While some of the cast still fear they'll have their applications for asylum rejected, the packed houses reveal the extent to which ordinary
Danes are willing to listen and even understand this incredible suffering and hardship in their midst.
And that's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can always watch us wherever you are. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Good night from New York.