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Mozambique Starts Three-Day National Mourning After Cyclone Idai; Cyclone Idai Connected to Climate Change; Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton Professor of Geoscience and International Affairs, is Interviewed About Climate Change; "Hotel Mumbai", A Film About Terror Attack in Mumbai; Armie Hammer, Actor, "Hotel Mumbai" and Nazanin Boniadi, Actress, "Hotel Mumbai," are Interviewed about "Hotel Mumbai." Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 20, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10,000 people are scrambling to get to the top of structures like trees and rooftops.
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Africa's killer cyclone leaves inland oceans, a thousand are feared dead in Mozambique and neighbors are affected too. We get an update from ground
zero and the climate change connection.
Plus, the ugly reality of terrorism. As New Zealand mourns, we look back at the deadly attack on Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in a movie with
Hollywood stars, Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what version of hell we implement through policy at the border, people are going to endure it to get to the other
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AMANPOUR: Former border patrol agent, Francisco Cantu, speaks with our Hari Sreenivasan. Lending his real-world experience to the issue of our
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Mozambique begins three days of national mourning today after what's been called one of the worst weather-related disasters in the southern
hemisphere ever. Cyclone Idai ripped across Southeastern Africa at the end of last week and still the death toll is rising. Hundreds are already
confirmed dead. And the president says he fears more than a thousand may have perished when all are counted.
And it's not just Mozambique that's affected, tens of thousands are in danger in Zimbabwe too and in Malawi. To Mozambique's west and north, both
are landlock countries not used to the wrath of these cyclones. The rainfall shown in this has created what humanitarian workers are calling
Jamie Lesueur is an emergency operations manager for the Red Cross who spoke to us by phone about the unfolding disaster from the worst hit City
of Beirut, that is where communications are understandably extremely unreliable, but this is his report.
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JAMIE LESUEUR, OPS MANAGER, RED CROSS: It's hard to estimate exactly how many people are in danger at this state, but we know that there is many and
they're mainly in the Buzi and Pungue areas to the west of us.
The aerial assessment showed that football stadiums were full of people and that on top of houses, there were clusters of people requesting assistance
from the top of their lungs.
We can't give you a number but what we can say is that there is an immediate need and the search and rescue is working tirelessly around the
clock to make sure they can go out and save those people. But one of the challenges of course is the weather. The weather continues to not be
favorable for us. And so, it had impacted some flights. But as I mentioned, the teams are on the ground a hundred percent of the time to
make sure they're getting people back and in safety as quick as possible.
Accessibility has been a challenge from day one. We were here before the cyclone in Maputo and we were ready to go. But the moment we found a way
in, roads were completely devastated for all access into beta city. This requires us to move in by helicopter.
And right now, this is the only into beta cities, via air and via the seaport. So, this is been a major challenge for getting aid in. But
because the airport is open, it has given us an access point for various city as for the cyclone affected population. But the challenge still
remains in the flood affected area because we cannot get many cars in there and we're relying on drops from helicopters in order to support the
affected population in the flood affected areas.
For me, this is the most -- this is the largest emergency operation I have been on personally and it has been extensive for all of us. And we're all
working together as a humanitarian collective to address it. But it is immense and it's (INAUDIBLE).
What we want the world to know is that the Red Cross and the international community are here to support the government to Mozambique in supporting
the affected community, providing immediate relief assistance, providing immediate search and rescue and helping them to regain their footing in
this awful disaster.
We are expecting to be here for some time to support these initiatives and have launched an emergency appeal to do that. But we are here and we are
ready and we're going to be here with the local Red Cross to support these people for the -- as long as they need us.
It's hard to say how long it'll take. But through our local organizations, through the Red Cross, for instance, the Red Cross in Mozambique, we have
an entry point to support these people for many years. But we hope it won't go for much longer than the immediate rescue phase and we start
working on recovery. Our planning efforts at this stage are not just lifesaving but we're looking months down the road for them from day one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: To hear Jamie Lesueur talk about it being the biggest disaster he's ever worked on in a continent that is very, very familiar with
disasters puts it into context.
Now, climate scientists are always wary of connecting any one storm to climate change. But the pattern is very clear, storms are becoming more
violent and they're becoming more frequent. Just as this devastating sidetone hits East Africa, flooding is also happening in America's Midwest,
that is inundated huge areas of the Missouri and Mississippi river basins.
The Princeton professor, Michael Oppenheimer, has been on the leading edge of climate science for decades, and he's joining me now from New York.
And you also have been a long-term member of the intergovernmental panel on climate change and that obviously won the Nobel Prize in 2007.
So, Professor Oppenheimer, what do you make of Cyclone Idai in terms of its connection with this changing climate?
MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, PRINCETON PROFESSOR OF GEOSCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Well, Cyclone Idai has some of the characteristic --
characteristics which are becoming very familiar in terms of what happens to cyclones, and that includes hurricanes and typhoons, in the changing
What -- these storms are powered by evaporation of warm water from the surface of the ocean as the ocean heats up. And what that does is power
these storms to higher and higher levels of intensity. And one of the key things that happens is that moisture, the extra moisture in those storms
goes up, dumps its extra heat that makes a storm even more intense and then the water falls as very, very intense rainfall.
We're seeing that pattern develop in the north -- in North America, we're seeing it develop worldwide. I wouldn't be surprised if scientists are
able to show soon that climate change contributed to this specific violence associated with Idai.
AMANPOUR: Do you think Idai and what's happening, as I mentioned, in those river basins in the United States right now have the same characteristics,
and you're saying both are a product of this warming, waters in the air and the increasing violence and frequency?
OPPENHEIMER: There are two things about the big floods in the great plains, they are also characteristic of a changing climate. One of them,
is again, there's a lot of extra boisterous in the atmosphere due to evaporation from the ocean surface and this moisture just feeds in
precipitation. In this situation, we're already going to have heavy precipitation which we had in the great plains over the few weeks preceding
And then, in addition, we had an early melt of the snow pack. The combination of an early melt and heavy precipitation is what's causing the
flood. And an early and intense melting is exactly what you'd expect in a changing climate.
So, what we're seeing here is a vision of what we expect in the future, more violent storms, worst floods, and it's just sort of one set of
extremes that we expect to increase in the changing climate and that have already changed. For instance, as wouldn't be a surprise in a warmer
climate you get more episodes of extreme heat. Extreme heat is extremely dangerous to human health. Also, in a warmer climate, you expect the sea
level to rise. Sea level has been rising, it's due to the warmed ocean, it's due to melting ice feeding more water into the ocean.
That means that when you get a coastal storm in the United States, like for instance, Hurricane Sandy, the flood level gets into places it wouldn't
have before. And perhaps the king of all these events that have these characteristics was Hurricane Harvey in Houston which was so intense in
terms of rainfall that it just -- you know, 50 inches of rainfall in one episode, unheard of in the United States.
AMANPOUR: And as you just keep mentioning, obviously, this dramatic weather and these changes are coming home more and more to the United
States. It's not just some far flung country in Africa or in the Far East or whatever, it is really hitting home in the U.S. as well.
But just to put not too fine a point on it, obviously, from these cyclones, climate refugees, we could already see they're on the move and this is
another big aspect to climate change, the notion of climate refugees, they are trying to escape the floods, you know, the inland oceans that they are
being called in Africa right now. They are the poorest, some of the poorest countries.
And I just want to, you know, read for you or run for you a little bit of an interview I did with the prime minister of New Zealand. Obviously, she
has her hands full with another disaster right now but she's also very mindful of the disaster that climate change could pose for her own country.
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JACINDA ARDEM, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: There is no ability to opt out from the effects of climate change. We feel that acutely (ph) in the
Pacific. We are members of the Pacific, canal neighbors, this is not a hypothetical, this is reality already.
We still have a responsibility to try and ensure that we are ever in the world and individuals living that they have the option of being able to
preserve their culture, their language, their place, their land and simply conceding that sea levels are rising and that they will be (INAUDIBLE) as
not the position that they want us to fight for. They want us to fight to try and reserve what we're seeing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, she is very passionate and very articulate. And in fact, on the day of this terrible White supremacist terrorist attack in her
country, she was meant to be participating and had started in a climate march that was going on in New Zealand.
But hurricane season or rather tornado season is just opening in the United States. What can the U.S. expect and are the people, as far as you're
concerned, becoming more in tune and most sensitive to the perils of climate change?
OPPENHEIMER: Well, there is indication that people are coming to realize finally that this is a problem that is already sort of getting out of our
control, that we need to cut the cause of the problem, which is the greenhouse gases getting into the atmosphere, primarily carbon dioxide,
from burning coal oil and natural gas, and that the problem is simply going to get worse until we can reduce, and I mean sharply reduce those
One thing I'd like to get back to in terms of the previous points that I made is that this isn't just speculation, what we think is happening now.
In the case of several of these sorts of events, particularly Hurricane Harvey, the intensity of the rainfall, the intensity of the storm has been
tied to the buildup of the greenhouse gases. So, this isn't a theory. This is something we know is happening with the science has proven.
And so, as we go into the future and as we go into the current hurricane season, we have to all be alert. We have sort of been behind the eight
ball. We are not prepared. We don't realize that things are going to happen that we're not used to. So, everybody has to be on the alert. And
when governments say it's time to evacuate, you don't wait around, you go.
When in advance, the local city or your state suggests that you should be making sure that, you know, your property is secure, that if you're
building a house it's up to hurricane standard that, you know, if you're building that you avoid building in the coastal zone, for instance, where
by the way, property values are not growing very fast anymore because of the flood risk due to -- that's increase in due to climate change, that
everyone be aware of that before disaster strikes.
AMANPOUR: I mean, obviously, you're talking about the rich world which might have some options. In places like Mozambique, people have no
options. They can't choose buy and large where to live.
And so, to that point, I want to ask you what you make of the current administrator of the EPA in the United States. Andrew Wheeler has said
that, you know, unsafe drinking water, not climate change, poses the greatest receives humanity because threats from climate change are 50 to 75
years away. I mean, what do you make of that when we see these disasters unfolding?
OPPENHEIMER: It's a totally uninformed statement. He -- if we are to take his words literally, they mean that he just basically doesn't know anything
about the climate change problem. Climate change is already here, it's causing damage, it's already a drag on the economy, it's already killing
people in some places.
And you made a point about wealthy countries like the United States being able to prepare and cope with problems like climate change better than
poorer countries, and that's absolutely true. But in some places poorer countries have actually done a better job than the United States. Because
for all our worth -- or our wealth, we've been asleep at the wheel and that's due to bad leadership in the federal government. We need to wake
We see several states and localities doing things that need to be done, not only to prepare for potential disaster and to cut the risk, but the cut
emissions so that they can make a contribution to reducing the climate change problem. The states and the cities are way ahead of the federal
AMANPOUR: They're way ahead but we've been told by the former governor of California, for instance, Jerry Brown, and others that it's not enough,
federal governments in the U.S. and all over the world have to step up.
Do you believe that with the so-called Green New Deal, the election of more progressives to the House, people who believe in climate change and
something, you know, to the big marches that the kids are having around the world, do you think that is going to have a political impact and make a
change when it comes to the top levels of federal policy?
OPPENHEIMER: As you say, around the world, national governments have to step in, they have to own up to their responsibility. People and local
communities cannot solve these problems. And on the positive side, and I always remain optimistic that this problem can be solved, we see
individuals wanting to get the situation changed, we see the young people demanding that people in my generation do something because we seem to have
messed up badly.
And I think it is a generational change and the millennials and future generations are going to act to get this problem solved. So, I don't think
it's going to be very long before we see very serious action, not just in the United States, but throughout the whole world. There are already
places like parts of Europe, even in China, where serious efforts are being made to try to cut emissions, not always successfully but the efforts are
underway, as I said, at the state level in the United States, we see big reduction to in the cost of say renewable energy like solar energy or wind
energy. So, the technologies are there.
Failing to solve this problem is not a problem of not enough technology. It's not a problem of it's too expensive. It's a problem of political will
or the lack thereof.
AMANPOUR: All right. Professor Oppenheimer, thank you so much. We do hope that change is coming because the U.N. has estimated that there may in
the future be some 200 million climate refugees.
Now, it is a slow-moving manmade disaster, having larger impacts all the time. But every once in a while, like this past week, we're reminded in
this darkest way of our own human ability to do horrific damage to one another. As I mentioned, the disaster in New Zealand.
And funerals have begun today for the 50 worshippers who were killed in two mosques. It comes as a new film takes a docu-realism approach to retelling
the story of another massacre, by Pakistani terrorists at Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in 2008. Here's a clip from the trailer of "Hotel
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut off the lights. Under the tables.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrorists have laid siege to the landmark Taj. With as many as a thousand guests and over 500 staff trapped inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should try to gather whoever we can. Many of you have families at home. There is no shame in leaving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been here 35 years. This is my home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know how many there are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's difficult to watch given what's going on. So, hard, in fact, that the distribution company has temporarily pulled this film from
movie theaters in New Zealand.
The film stars, Armie Hammer, famous for his roles in "The Social Network" and "Call Me By Your Name," and Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian actress who is
also a very prominent human rights activist, they revealed the difficult line the film walked in portraying but not excusing people who committed
these terrible atrocities.
Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi, welcome to the program.
NAZANIN BONIADI, ACTRESS, "HOTEL MUMBAI": Thanks for having us.
AMANPOUR: So, here we have a film, it is the fourth film about the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Tragically, 164 people were killed.
I guess first and foremost, what made you want to do it? What attracted you to the film? Armie, first.
ARMIE HAMMER, ACTOR, "HOTEL MUMBAI": The thing that attracted me to this film was the incredible script. This felt like a very intimate first-
person point of view into one of the more sorts of atrocious terror attacks that happened in Indi and also the humanity there was in the script, even
the humanity from the hotel guests, to the hotel staff, to even the gunmen and perpetrators. You see the toll that these events really took on
HAMMER: I thought it was very beautifully told.
BONIADI: I think the hotel serves as a microcosm of the greater world. I think you see people from all walks (ph) of life, various socioeconomic
backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, races coming together in one place and all faced with the same horror and they have to sort of set aside their
differences in order to overcome and survive. And that message of unity really resonated with me.
AMANPOUR: Well, you talk about the different socioeconomic backgrounds and, of course, you two play a couple of different socioeconomic and ethnic
backgrounds. You're going to the hotel. Nazanin, your character's mother is somehow connected as a VIP to the hotel. And you are, I believe, having
dinner as this terror attack is unfolding, your son or your child is in the room. And this is the clip we're going to play about the moment that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMMER: I love you so much.Watch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need the police right now. Right now. We've called you five times. Please send someone. Sir, please, please.
HAMMER: My kid is upstairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please.
HAMMER: Do you have a family?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And I hope you stay alive and see them. (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's quite chilling, it's very chilling. You know, especially in light of this terrible, terrible attack that took place in
New Zealand. And in that last bit of that clip, you see a body in the hall -- in the hallway.
And just explain what's going on there, Armie. Because you're going to try to save your son who's in the room with his nanny, right. What unfolds in
that scene between you and your wife there?
HAMMER: Yes. It's just so gut wrenching, especially as a parent. I'm there trying to have a nice dinner with my wife to celebrate being in
India, in this beautiful place, and then the attacks happen and I have to make the decision of do I stay with my wife or do I try to go get my son to
protect him, knowing that the gunmen are going from room to room and basically exterminating people. It's a terrible predicament to be in.
BONIADI: Yes. And I think, Anthony, our director, had told us that this is based on something that really happened in the hotel which was a
conscious decision by a couple to separate because they thought if one part of the hotel is destroyed and one of them dies, at least their child isn't
orphaned and the other one survive. So, there is -- it's sort of loosely based on that.
AMANPOUR: We're talking and the film is being released in the aftermath of this attack in New Zealand, where a guy has a video camera strapped to him.
He streams stuff online. He's accused of mass murder. And we are not really playing any of the video that was released. We won't touch it. And
yet, your film actually does touch the actual video. You -- it is the news footage that's interspliced with film footage and you do use the
transcripts between the terrorists and their handlers.
Just talk to me a little bit about that and how you feel about that today.
HAMMER: I think there's a real difference between using the news coverage of an actual event and allowing that to bring people back to the sort of
that place emotionally that the entire country and also the world because this was one of the first terror attacks that I can really think of that
played out in real time on the news.
Normally, it's a shooting or a bombing and then you witness the aftermath. But because of the way this attack happened, you as, as a viewer of the
news, watched this unfold. And I think that there's a big difference between that and playing something that this guy, this sick individual in
New Zealand, intentionally made to glorify what he was doing and to almost recruit people.
You know, I'm so happy that no one in the news is touching those videos. I'm very happy that New Zealand actually made possession of that video
illegal. It's -- I think he is trying to do this as an inspirational thing to other extremists out there. And therefore, I think that everybody's
made the right decision not to give him that platform.
AMANPOUR: And, Nazanin, again, it's a really tough business, this, because what we saw in Mumbai, and I remember it like it was yesterday and we were
all glued to our TV screens and, of course, all our colleagues were reporting it from the ground and it lasted days and then 164 people were
killed and people went door to door and it was just savage. And this was Muslims, essentially, attacking this hotel.
HAMMER: I just want to clarify that, yes, they were Muslims but they were also part of a very extremist --
BONIADI: Extremist. Yes.
HAMMER: -- leaning group.
HAMMER: I don't think that -- you know.
HAMMER: It's -- it was a niche group of people and --
BONIADI: Yes. We don't consider them -- I mean, they're not average -- the average Muslim person. But yes, you're right. They were -- sort of
they (INAUDIBLE) Islam while they were extremist fundamentalists.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. They were Pakistani-based extremist radical terrorist group. But what I'm saying is --
AMANPOUR: -- the equal and opposite has happened in New Zealand, that Islamophobia has now given rise to these White grievers, this White
nationalism is suddenly becoming the terrorism that we have to grapple with today.
And I wonder, Nazanin, you know, you come from Iran, your family is presumably Muslim, I don't know whether you practice or not but it's
immaterial, what do you make of these shifts and almost tandem equal but opposite reactions and this mass murder in the name of a religion or a
BONIADI: That's a great question. You know, I believe extremism breeds extremism and I think that's the core. Our film is the condemnation of
extremism. And I think that -- in that sense, it's extremely timely and important.
And I think, you know, when we think about, you know, radicalization, the core of radicalization or the root of it, is lack of education and just
abject poverty. So, I think when you -- you need sunlight in order to -- I think sunlight is the best disinfectant and I think when you have films
like ours that show the humanity and the real root of the problem, hopefully, people who watch will be motivated and inspired to find a
And I think that's what we need. We need people to rise out of this sort of hopelessness that we're in and try to come up with a better solution.
AMANPOUR: Armie, I want to get your take on this too and I wonder whether you have ever played a role where reality collides with filmmaking in such
a visceral way, whether it is the terrorism that we saw in Mumbai or even last weekend or whether it's the human rights activist who you have sitting
next to you and who is your costar.
HAMMER: Never to a degree that it does in this film. In the process of making this film, the amount of people that we've met who were involved in
the attacks as victims or people who were there or who lost family members, coming into contact with people who had that sort of -- who had that strong
of an emotional connection to the story we were telling was really sort of a grounding experience.
It gave the project a feeling of gravitas for all of us. And it sorts of enforced a feeling of responsibility and respect that we had to bring to
I mean, I've played real people before, you know, I recently just played Martin Ginsburg who was Justice Ginsburg's husband and getting to spend
time with Justice Ginsburg was amazing, but it also didn't have the same sort of emotional impact that meeting people who lost their entire family
in this attack had.
AMANPOUR: I actually wanted to ask you about that role you played. I just seen the film. Obviously, it's been out. And it is a remarkable film
because of, obviously, the portrayals but, again, this real life story.
And while Nazanin is an activist for women's rights, so was Martin Ginsberg. I mean, he really gave his wife and pointed her to the case that
would reshape women's rights and propel her to the Supreme Court of the United States.
He is an extraordinary character. What was it like playing this man this heroic man, this heroic White man in today's world, Armie?
HAMMER: It was amazing. Characters like Martin Ginsberg are almost too good to be true, especially when you look at what's expected from White men
these days. He -- it's also an under-represented character in the film. A truly supportive husband who believed so much in the mission of his wife
that he was willing to do everything possible to sort of buttress and reinforce her success.
Not only did he bring her that case, he was also the one who championed her being on the Supreme Court. You know, he so truly believes that the work
his wife was doing was pivotal and necessary and made it his life's statement to facilitate that, and I love that. You know, I'm also married
to a woman who is much smarter and more driven and, you know, more capable than I am. So, a lot of that also responded and resonated with me.
AMANPOUR: That's great. Let me ask you to delve down a little bit of something that might be unpopular, when you said this film, "Hotel Mumbai,"
because of this reliance on so much actuality on the transcripts, et cetera, also, not just humanizes the victims but also humanizes to an
extent the gunmen, the terrorists, and we do see bits and bobs of the transcript and we hear how the terrorists were, you know, talking about the
food in the hotel, talking about the grandeur of the (INAUDIBLE), talking even about flushing toilets.
Tell me how you feel about humanizing them.
BONIADI: Well, I think it depends on your definition of humanizing. If by humanizing you're saying, you know, sort of justifying their actions, then
I don't think that's what our film does. But I think if by humanizing you mean treating them as human beings, human beings can do evil things and
they were human beings who committed these crimes or evil acts and terror.
So, I feel like, you know, the beauty of the film is that there's so much nuance and layered to every person in the film, every character. My
character, for example, when confronted, there's a scene where she's confronted by a gunman and, of course, my character is Muslim and I
personally have many devout Muslim family members in my life.
[14:30:00] So I would never take on a project that treats it anything with anything like this, with -- so to disrespect.
But I love that scene in particular because when she's faced with the gunman and, of course, they're both Muslim, I call it the Ying and Yang of
faith. She, on the one hand, my character, uses prayer and faith for survival, for hope, for courage. And the gunman uses it to instill fear
and cause death.
And I think when you look at the two sides of the coin, you realize watching our film, that it really is up to us as individuals how we choose
to live our lives. And it's not really the faith, it's how we pervert it. That's the problem.
HAMMER: One thing you do see in our film though, which I've never seen in a movie that deals with this kind of subject matter is the gunmen are not
nameless, faceless killing machines. They're naive, scared children who are being manipulated by an extremist idea and coerced into doing this kind
of thing and lied to.
I mean there's one scene in the movie where one of the gunmen calls his family back home and says, "Did they send the money that they said they
were going to?" And the father says, "No, my son, they didn't." He said, "Wait, wait, no, but they swore on the Holy Quran that they were going to."
And you see how people who are going to commit evil atrocities anyway will use faith in any way they need to manipulate other people to commit these
AMANPOUR: It is really dramatic the way it's portrayed. Nazanin, I want to ask again about your character. And particularly, we're going to play a
clip with Dev Patel who plays the hotel worker and we just saw him a little bit briefly in the previous clip.
But your character is accused of being one of them by an older white hostage. And the same lady said she's uncomfortable by one of the staff
members because of his beard and because of what it represents and his head wrap. And then this is the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARJUN: This is mine. This is my body. It's a secret. (INAUDIBLE) encourage. Since I was a small boy, I've never gone outside without it.
The reason for that, it would bring shame to my family. In this hotel, you are my guest and I am your staff. So if it would make you feel
comfortable, I will take it off. Would you like that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's really moving, very, very moving indeed. And that scene does such a good job about the story of the other and then what fear does
to people and, you know, how it pushes people to do things maybe they don't intend to do.
And I just wonder, Nazanin, kind of related, what is it like being a Middle Easterner, an Iranian, a Muslim trying to work in the United States, in
Western Cinema? I mean do you yourself face stereotyping?
BONIADI: Sure, it's really hard to sort of break out of molds and boxes that they -- Hollywood tries to put you in. But, you know, I think in
recent years, I've had the good fortune of being cast in roles where I feel not so boxed in.
I just did two seasons of a fantastic show called "Counterpart with J.K. Simmons" where I played Claire. And yes, she was technically the
antagonist in the first season but she knows no reference to her ethnicity or race.
And I've played Nora on "How I Met Your Mother" and she was just a love interest for Barney Stinson. She's sort of a girl. And I hope for more
roles like that. And I think Zahra Kashani is layered and she happens to be Iranian but she's definitely not a cliche or a stereotype. She's a
modern cosmopolitan woman.
So I feel like it's changing slowly but surely. And I'd love to see a day where Middle Eastern, North Africans, South Asian actors get their own sort
of Crazy Rich Asian or Black Panther and we get to sort of open big books of this.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you a final question about your human rights activists. And I just want you to comment on Nasrin Sotoudeh's case which
is so egregious.
Just for defending women, she is being sentenced as far as we can tell to some 38 years. It is a little unclear. But if so, it would be an
And also, we've just heard that an American by the name of Michael White, [14:35:00] a U.S. Navy veteran who's been held in Iran since July has just
been sentenced to 10 years. He apparently was accused of posting photos on social media.
I mean on the human rights and attacking dual nationals and others, it's a big problem in Iran these days.
BONIADI: Absolutely. And with racist, the new head of the judiciary, I think we're in for a really rough road ahead. I have been campaigning for
Nasrin's release for a long time. I think it's horrific that a prominent human rights attendee who was just doing her job and defending women's
rights and children's rights in Iran is facing this horrific sentence. Again, you said, it's unclear. It is unclear if it is 38 years right now
but we're -- shouldn't be one single day, to be honest.
And, you know, the fact that the president of France, President Macron, has basically praised her and people are talking about her winning a Nobel
Peace Prize, and yet the Iranian government chooses to give her this sentence just shows you just how misogynistic and oppressive the Iranian
AMANPOUR: And actually, it's all over the Middle East. We see Saudi Arabia Women's Rights activists. I mean it's a real issue. Just when we
think women's rights are sort of making strides, you see an increased crackdown in so many countries.
Anyway, we'll keep an eye on it. Thank you both very much.
BONIADI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Nazanin Boniadi and Armie Hammer. The film is Hotel Mumbai. Thanks for being with us.
BONIADI: Thanks, Christiane.
HAMMER: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So on the topic of human rights, we turn next to the U.S.-Mexico border crisis. Francisco Cantu is a third generation Mexican-American and
a former border patrol agent. And unlikely pairing perhaps driven by his thirst to understand the issue from both sides of the fence, so to speak.
His new book, "The Line Becomes a River, dispatches from the Border," chronicles the brutality along the landscape he loves. And he shared the
stories of the people that he met along the way with our Hari Sreenivasan.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR: Now, you didn't become a border patrol agent to write this book. You had an international policy degree. You
said you wanted to see how the world works. You wanted to see where this policy actually -- the rubber meets the road. So what happened?
FRANCISCO CANTU, AUTHOR, THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER: I think there was a lot of naivete behind the decision. I sort of imagined that I could join the
border patrol and do this work for a few years and then sort of leave with all these answers to this big complex problem because I had seen it from a
perspective that probably not a lot of policymakers have seen it from.
But, of course, the -- I think I also massively underestimated the power of the institution to sort of bend the people's purposes towards its will.
And so going through the border patrol academy, it's much like any military and law enforcement training where it's sort of designed to break down your
idea of who you are as an individual and rebuild you in the image of a law enforcement agent.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that you mentioned is living near the border means becoming conditioned to a degree of militarization and
surveillance that would cause great alarm in any other part of the country. Explain that.
CANTU: You can't drive longer than like 30 to 40 minutes in any direction along the border without going through a border patrol checkpoint and being
stopped in your car. And, of course, racial profiling is something that you are taught not to do at the academy from this like by the books
standpoint but it's really ingrained in people.
And I think that the border patrol training does little to actually prevent it happening in action at the moment. It's a very militarized space. And
I think that that militarization, it's not just border patrol checkpoints, it's also fencing.
The newest thing down in Nogales which is the closest border town to where I live in Tucson is, since the midterm election, there has been all these
coils of concertina wire, razor wire that you would see around the prison.
And so when you get out of your car to go walk across the border, I mean you really feel that you are in a dangerous place. And, you know, the
border is actually not any more dangerous than America's largest cities, right. El Paso is sort of famously one of America's safest cities.
SREENIVASAN: What were your notions of what' good, what's bad? Were those challenged? Did that change? Did you start to accept something that you
might have thought was unacceptable?
CANTU: You have people that get lost out in the desert [14:40:00] and they get left behind by their groups. And then they just try to walk out to a
road or to a village to get picked up to say like just take us home. We're lost, we've been out here without food or water for days.
And so I encountered a husband and a wife who were in that situation. And I showed up as like the junior agent who was assigned basically just to
like shuttle people back and forth from the station.
As I was having a conversation with these people because I can speak Spanish, I was talking with the husband. And he said, "You know, my wife,
she speaks fluent English. She grew up in Iowa."
And all of a sudden, I was having this conversation in English with this woman. And she said, "Yes, I was a Kindergarten teacher. I went home
because a family member died." And she was pregnant and she said that she was crossing the border because she wanted to have her child here because
she wanted her child to grow up like she had grown up in the United States with access to all the freedoms and privileges that she had had.
And I made a really big effort to remember their names. I asked them their names. I introduced myself because there was the feeling that you had an
exchange that was outside of the normal exchange that you might have in those roles of enforcer.
SREENIVASAN: But ultimately you had to take them.
CANTU: Right. Of course. And her husband asked me if I could do them a favor and just bring them down to the border and let them go without
putting them through the court system and bringing them back to the station. Like as a brother, right, as a Spanish-speaking person who knows
our culture and is from the same background, can you take us?
And, of course, I said no, I can't do that, I have to take you in. And I remember just a few hours after that encounter, like after dropping them
off, sitting in my car and trying to remember their names, and I had already forgotten it, you know, in that short amount of time.
These small forms of dehumanization, right. Like forgetting someone's name is the first act in dehumanizing them. And I think on a much larger scale,
when you look at the media coverage around immigration, immigrants are always represented as this indistinguishable mass of people, right, that's
threatening the nation or that's surging and overflowing at our borders.
SREENIVASAN: You point out that in your view that the desert has been weaponized against migrants. You're saying that the number of bodies that
we find, the number of deaths is almost because the system is designed that way. Explain that.
CANTU: Yes. So there's a policy that was implemented under the Clinton administration called Prevention through Deterrence. And so in the sort of
late '80s and early '90s, the border patrol began to pilot this enforcement technique where at that time you had a lot of -- most migrant traffic was
crossing through cities and towns along the border.
And so the border patrol response was to sort of throw a lot of manpower right along the border, stationing an agent every half a mile from one
another. And it completely shut down traffic and pushed it to the outskirts of town, outside of the public eye, away from cameras, away from
And the thinking was, as that policy was adapted into a national policy, that the deserts are so remote and so hostile. There's no water. There's
rugged mountains. The people aren't going to risk their lives --
SREENIVASAN: It would be a natural disincentive?
CANTU: Exactly, and a deterrent. And, of course, what we saw as soon as just a few years after this policy was implemented was a huge uptick in the
number of deaths that were occurring in the desert in places like Pima County where I live now.
And I think if that wasn't an unintended consequence at the time, it has now been continued by design because there has been a complete failure of
political will to do anything to change that situation. We have known that people are dying in the desert now for decades.
SREENIVASAN: Would a wall work to fix that? Because that seems to be part of the argument. Hey, guess what, if we can slow the volume of people and
we will slow inevitably the volume of people dying in the middle of the desert.
CANTU: Well, I mean, actually, a wall has -- walls along these border towns have actually exacerbated this problem, right. That's part of what
has caused people to cross through more and more distant, remote, obscure areas.
And so if you did build a wall from [14:45:00] sea to shining sea, I think you would only see a continuation of this, right? You would see people
crossing on ships and boats. And I mean look at what is happening in the Mediterranean.
Militarization doesn't just come to an end once you complete a border wall. Like that mentality continues. It's been in place for decades and really
for centuries if you look at the history of westward expansion and militarization and the borderlands.
SREENIVASAN: I mean you also spend several dozen pages chronicling despicable human beings, drug traffickers, and how they exploit people.
Aren't those people that we should be figuring out a way to keep out?
CANTU: Sure. But I think that our policies have really emboldened a lot of those people. As it became more difficult to cross the border, it
became more profitable to traffic people across the border.
So these sort of powerful drug cartels that already had these strategies for smuggling drugs across the border unseen realized that there was now a
lot of money to be made in doing the same thing with people.
And even with, like, child separation which is another example of a deterrence-based policy, right, we're going to make it hell for these
people to cross through the border. We're going to separate them from their children. That's going to send a message of deterrence.
In a lot of ways, that's sort of exacerbated this problem because after that was met with outrage and then sort of called off by the Trump
administration, a lot of these smuggling groups in Mexico and Central America, they were like, did you see what just happened? They're going to
separate you from your children. So like we better go now because who knows what this guy is going to do next.
They use that as an opportunity to bring people across, to make them pay more money. And I think it begs the question of what is an unintended
consequence and when is it a consequence that we're OK with.
SREENIVASAN: The book takes a turn when you tell us the story of someone that you were working next to for an extended period of time. You find out
that he's undocumented. He takes a trip back home and he's kind of stuck.
You said that this is one of the first times that you realized what happens to a person after you arrest them, that that wasn't really part of your
training or part of what you guys prepared for as border patrol agents.
CANTU: This person, Jose, who is somebody I met several years after leaving the border patrol and somebody that I worked with and became
friends with over the course of several years, all of a sudden in seeing what happened to him after -- he left the country to go again be with a
dying parent and he was somebody who had lived in the United States for 30 years, had three U.S. citizen children.
And when he was attempting to come back into the country, he was apprehended and put through deportation proceedings. And so suddenly I
was, as somebody who was somewhat familiar with the system, I was attempting to sort of make sense of it for his family and say, oh, he's
going to be here at this courthouse. He's being detained here.
And so I was sort of like taking his kids and his wife to see him in these different contexts and these different places within the deportation and
industrial complex. And for me, that was really the first time that I was looking behind the curtain at what would happen to everybody after they are
encountered in the desert and sent to court or to these privately-run detention centers.
SREENIVASAN: This is Jose speaking or you're writing through his voice. "I'd rather be in prison in the U.S. and see my boys once a week through
the glass than to stay here and be separated from my family. At least, I'd be closer to them.
So you see, there is nothing that can keep me from crossing. My boys are not dogs to be abandoned in the streets. I will walk through the desert
for 5 days, 8 days, 10 days, whatever it takes to be with them.
I'll eat grass. I'll eat bushes. I'll eat cactus. I'll drink filthy cattle water. I'll drink nothing at all. I'll run and hide from La Migra.
I'll pay the mafias whatever I have to. They can take my money. They can do -- they can rob my family. They can lock me away but I will keep coming
back. I will keep crossing again and again until I make it, until I am together again with my family."
Now, some of the audience is going to be inspired by the words of a resolute father and someone else is going to say this is exactly the
evidence necessary for why the U.S. needs more border security.
CANTU: But I think what the evidence actually shows us, what his words reveal, is that no matter what version of hell we implement through policy
at the border, people are going to endure it to get to the other side, especially when their wives, their children, fathers, mothers are on the
other side. Or when there is the security of safety from the certain threat of death [14:50:00] in the community that you're fleeing.
And so I think that he also shows us that the people with the best family values, the -- something he told me is that "I respect the law. I respect
the laws of the United States. The laws of the United States are what makes it a safe environment that I want to live in, that I want to raise my
family in. And so I have the utmost laws of the United -- I have the utmost respect for those laws. But if those laws are keeping me separate
from my children then I have to break the law. I have to."
SREENIVASAN: There's going to be people with more hardline positions on immigration. They're going to say, OK, this disillusionment that this man
has gone through, he's the outlier. If it was so bad, why aren't we hearing this from so many other border agents? Why isn't the system
rebelling against itself?
CANTU: I mean I just don't think that that's the way institutions work, right? Like institutions rarely change from within. I think that
everything is being done from the moment that you sign up at your border patrol recruitment facility and you show up at the border patrol academy.
Everything is being done to normalize the activities that you're participating in. And to sort of desensitize you to the hard realities
that you're seeing and participating in. It's managed to be contained and it's managed to be politicized in all of these ways that kind of what an
average border patrol agent thinks is not even a subject of debate, right?
Like how many border patrol agents are even allowed to give interviews. I mean a lot of border patrol agents probably live in fear of speaking out
because they have a mortgage, they have families, this is a good job that offers a lot of security. Especially if they're coming from these small
rural border towns where there is not a lot of great employment opportunities.
SREENIVASAN: You've gotten criticism at some of your readings from people who said, listen, you are profiting and exploiting the pain of these
people. You are part of a system that brought that pain onto them. What's your response been to them?
CANTU: Well, I think in a lot of ways they're making a really important argument that anybody who is in journalism or who is writing non-fiction
about these kinds of issues needs to grapple with. If you're sharing the stories from a marginalized community and sort of making your living that
way, I think it's really important to grapple with who is making money off of whose story, who is being recognized as the author of a story if you're
sharing other people's life experiences.
And so I've been really appreciative of those criticisms and those conversations. I think they've made me be a lot more intentional with what
I do from, what I do with the money that I earn from the royalties of this book. A percentage of the royalties goes to groups that are working to end
death and disappearance in the borderlands and mass incarceration in the borderlands.
SREENIVASAN: Given your family history, how complicated was being a border patrol agent? Here you are a fluent Spanish speaker. You've got Mexican
heritage as well. Do you feel like you're betraying one group of people? And then here you are an American citizen and you're tasked with upholding
the law of this country? So what was that stress like?
CANTU: I mean I think it was really hard for my mother especially. And I think she sort of did a lot to try to convince me that it wasn't the right
idea or to sort of convince me that my ideas, my motivations were naive. And I think in retrospect, there was a lot that my mother had to say --
SREENIVASAN: Moms are usually right.
CANTU: They're usually right. I stepped into the border patrol knowing that it was part of a lot of ugliness and knowing -- I had the idea,
though, as a young person that I could witness that without participating in it, right? That I could sort of see it and learn from it but not be
implicated in it.
And I think that's like a profoundly naive idea to think that you can step into an institution and sort of see things from within without
participating in them.
SREENIVASAN: Francisco Cantu, thank you so much for joining us.
CANTU: Thanks so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.
[14:55:00] AMANPOUR: An important reminder is the border debate continues of the human cost.
That is it for us for now. Thanks for watching. Watch us online and goodbye from London.