Return to Transcripts main page
The Story of Nasrin Sotoudeh; Interview With Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 18, 2020 - 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 INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
OLIVIA COLMAN, NARRATOR: Nasrin Sotoudeh was again arrested. She's been tried and convicted in absentia.
AMANPOUR: A new documentary secretly filmed in Iran tells the heroic story of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, in prison now for her brave and
NOUBAR AFEYAN, CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, MODERNA: It is, in fact, a very special moment for Moderna and for the hundreds of people that have been
working internally and throughout the -- our partnerships to get to this point.
AMANPOUR: The new light at the end of the COVID tunnel. With a second vaccine on the brink of U.S. approval, our Walter Isaacson speaks to the
Moderna co-founder, Dr. Noubar Afeyan
And 25 years after the Dayton accords ended the Bosnian war, a new feature film examines an excruciating turning point, the Srebrenica genocide.
And, finally, a deep dive into deep diving. I speak with Alenka Artnik, world record-holder for women's free diving.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour London.
This past week, Iranian journalist Roohollah Zam was executed by his own government. The founder of a news site called Amadnews, he was hanged after
being found guilty of the vague charge of corruption on earth.
The outcry from the international community has been swift and furious, the U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, calling it appalling. The
journalist's execution once again underlines the challenge of Iranians who challenge their government.
Perhaps the most famous of these is the political prisoner Nasrin Sotoudeh, a world-renowned human rights lawyer who defends women, children and those
seeking freedom in Iran. Another global outcry was raised when her husband told the world last year that she had been sentenced to 38 years in prison
and 148 lashes.
Now her extraordinary fight for justice and the personal cost is the subject of the new documentary, "Nasrin," and here's a clip from the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nasrin Sotoudeh is a prominent lawyer in Iran who has been fighting for children's rights, women's rights and human rights.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is one of the bravest voices in Iran.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She took on cases that other lawyers were too afraid to take on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen Nasrin Sotoudeh jailed for defending human rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's cost her and her young family a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Protesting against the law which forces Iranian women to hair the hijab.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The country's prominent human rights activist and a voice for the voiceless.
COLMAN: On Wednesday, Nasrin Sotoudeh was again arrested. She's been tried and convicted in absentia.
According to her husband, she intends to continue her activism from prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It is a dramatic story, and it took years to make.
And now I'm joined from Los Angeles by the husband-and-wife team behind it, director Jeff Kaufman and producer Marcia Ross.
Welcome to the program.
I just want to ask you, what made you do this, and how difficult was it? Because, in the introduction, actually, you have a slate which says, thanks
to all the heroic camerapeople and journalists in Iran who did it, but want to remain anonymous.
JEFF KAUFMAN, DIRECTOR, "NASRIN": Well, I have done several other films about human rights in Iran, some with Amnesty International.
And each film gave me a deeper and deeper appreciation of the Iranian people and the Iranian culture and a realization that there's a big gap
often between the people of a country and leadership of a country.
Part of that process also connected me to the amazing work of Nasrin Sotoudeh, who I admired from afar and, over the course of the film, we have
had a chance to admire from close up, although still distanced by 7,000 miles.
We reached out to her in 2016 to ask if we could do a film about her life and her work. And we both had the same feeling at the very beginning, that,
through her, it would be a connection to Iran in a different way and also a portrait of a whole community of activists.
Nasrin would always be the first person to say that her work is just part of a larger community effort.
And, Marcia, she is a very self-effacing woman. You watch this hour-and-a- half documentary, and it's she's a firebrand. It's not like she's challenging the tenets and the foundation of the Islamic Republic.
She's just trying to get the people's freedoms within reason over there, whether it's the freedom to dress how they like, the freedom to speak and
the freedom to congregate where and with whom they want.
What about her personally, do you think, did you find compelling, compelling enough to make this film?
MARCIA ROSS, PRODUCER, "NASRIN": I think there's a couple of things about her, and I think you touch upon something very important, which is this
unique quality of her to remain both extremely thoughtful about everything that she's doing and very, very targeted in how she wants to accomplish
things, and yet remaining incredibly charming at the same time.
And I think one thing I really took away from her was how she always puts everyone first. I mean, recently, you may know she was out on a medical
furlough, and then she had to return unexpectedly to prison.
And she used that as an opportunity to cry out for justice on behalf of someone else. And that's what she's done throughout.
And I think also, as a mother myself, I found her remarkably -- ability to sort of balance her personal life and her professional life and her
political life, her activist life, and just make it all work in some way. It was pretty remarkable.
AMANPOUR: You know, you actually do give -- you really do show that. It comes through very, very loud and clear in the film, because you talk to
her husband, who is just remarkable.
I mean, he is somebody who supports her, who supports the fact that she wouldn't wear a hijab, the hair covering, in private. She was very clear.
She said: When I have to wear it in accordance to the law, I'll wear it, but not in private and not in any situations like that.
And he supported her.
There's -- we have got beautiful pictures of their marriage. Their children have paid such a heavy price for this.
Tell me about -- I mean, he -- what did he think when he was talking to you, particularly now that she's back in jail? Did he think it might be
KAUFMAN: Well, first of all, I have to say that, to quote Marcia Ross, she has often referred to Reza Khandan, Nasrin's husband, as Nasrin's Marty
Ginsburg, comparing Nasrin to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
And you see that connection, well, someone who's equally strong and brilliant and dedicated, but also very willing to support the work of his
remarkable wife. And that is absolutely true.
Every time we have talked to Reza, under the most difficult circumstances and to Nasrin and as well, it's amazing how personal they are at the same
time. They will always say, hey, we're not that special. We're just a regular family. But we do what we believe in, but we always find something
to laugh about, to talk about as far as family is concerned, and then strategically going to the big work that they're doing.
And I just have to say that Reza represents so many other people in Iran as well, many who we have gotten to know, the remarkable camerapeople behind
the scenes who did this film. It's really inspiring, especially as we see a struggle for democracy in our country happening, to see people who are
willing to put so much of their lives at risk for democracy and human rights in their country.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it really is. It's actually humbling. And, as you say, it's such a great love story between the two of them.
I want to play a little bit of -- it's actually -- I believe it's iPhone video that you were able to acquire. She was defending a boy who had been
accused of murder when he was 15 years old.
And when it turned out that they were going to actually execute him when he turned 19, 20, she rushed to meet the family outside the jail or outside
the courthouse to try to stop it. And they got the news while they were out there that he had been hanged. And this is just -- just tragic to listen
and watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, you can see exactly what's happening there. And she formed such a bond with families of clients like that.
What did you learn about her determination, despite the odds? And you have seen the scenes in the courthouse, where she was accused of being a tool of
the United States and, I mean, just very, very difficult for her just to be a lawyer.
ROSS: Well, it is very interesting.
I thought a lot about this, because, after she got out of prison the previous time, she didn't have to continue her work, and yet she chose to
go on, knowing the risks. And I think that is something really remarkable about her. And I think her willingness to take these risks has -- I think
you see in the film when Narges Hosseini talks about it.
I think it's an inspiration to other people to take risks. And she stands by her clients, and she never lets them go. And I think it really helps
them be strong in the ways that they need to be strong.
KAUFMAN: Yes, we really wanted to show the personal side of Nasrin, not just the activist side.
You mentioned her love of her husband and of her children. And it's important to understand that just as a person, but also to really feel the
sacrifice. Now, she's back in prison now, in Gharchak Prison, under horrendous conditions.
And you can imagine the pain of being yanked away from the children that you're not allowed to see. It's heartbreaking.
ROSS: And, also, there's a kind of a really beautiful humanity to Nasrin that transcends everything.
And I think that's also what makes her really special, is that she cares about people. It's not as much political, as actually just an intense
humanity and concern for the well-being of other people and the survival of the next generation in Iran, including her own children and others.
And that, obviously, was something very important for us to convey as well.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm glad you mentioned that, because it's really important for people to understand, and even those who might be watching from Iran,
that she wasn't political.
She -- it was about individuals' freedom and individuals who she insisted on defending from miscarriages of justice and a rigged judicial system that
we see very clearly and that certainly I have reported on a lot from there.
I want to ask you also, because women were her passion as well, and in terms of defending them and their rights, and particularly after the famous
demonstrations by individual women, young and old, who, remember, obviously, we all remember, took off their hijabs, wave them, including
sort of white scarves.
And that's when she went back into jail for defending, you mentioned Narges Hosseini and others.
But we want to play a clip of where she's talking one International Women's Day when she's out about why this is so important.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NASRIN SOTOUDEH, ACTIVIST (through translator): We cannot speak of suffering and injustice without mentioning what our society endured in the
When the debate over women's rights reached its peak in Iran, women from all backgrounds came together. There was no ideological, religious, or
political agenda. Their only demands were human rights and equality before the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Jeffrey and Marcia, she says it right there. It's not about political. It's about human rights and individual rights.
And, there, we see pictures of what Iran was before they forced women into the hijab and before they created, during the Islamic Republic, this raft
of laws that denied women so many legal rights.
What do you think and what do you hope will be the result of this film for her and potentially reaction outside in the United States and elsewhere?
KAUFMAN: Well, we always hoped that this film could be part of a process of tearing down some barriers and creating understanding. We need to --
people in both countries should have a better understanding of our history, which is often complicated and painful, as the best way to move forward,
and to not let the extremists in either country determine how we deal with each other or understand each other.
It's also just important to acknowledge that there's been such a wonderful grassroots effort around the world on behalf of Nasrin and other political
prisoners, and also efforts in like the European Parliament.
Recently, the U.S. Senate Human Rights commission -- or committee released a statement about Nasrin. So many international groups and individuals have
come together to support Nasrin and call for her release. And that kind of public pressure really does make a difference.
Authoritative regimes really do listen to that kind of public pressure. So, we hope that people keep being a part of that sort of group effort to both
understand each other better, but also call for proper treatment of all citizens.
AMANPOUR: Marcia, a very brief last word from you?
ROSS: Well, one of the things I found in making the film is that Iran is a very beautiful country, and it's a misunderstood country with an incredible
And for many Americans, as you say, we only know about Iran through what we hear from our government, government to government. It's all political. And
it's not really rooted in the reality of life for people there and the gorgeous country that they live in.
And we think it's really -- for us, we really wanted to convey that in the film. Again, I use the word humanity, but we do share a common humanity,
and we'd like people to see this country as people to people, not just government to government.
I think that will really make a difference going forward politically.
AMANPOUR: OK. Marcia and Jeffrey, thank you so much.
And for the sake of humanity, the whole world is rooting for Nasrin Sotoudeh and demanding that she be released.
Now, while COVID ravages Iran as well, it is unlikely to receive a vaccine anytime soon. Terrible records are also being set in the United States,
where the largest vaccine rollout in its history is now, of course, under way.
Vice President Mike Pence got his shot today in a public White House event, with one clear message, and that is safe and effective.
And now a second vaccine is endorsed and awaiting approval by the FDA.
Noubar Afeyan is the Moderna co-founder.
And here he is speaking to our Walter Isaacson about what their vaccine means for the nation, the world and the challenges of COVID ahead.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Noubar Afeyan, welcome to the show.
And, by the way, thank you and congratulations. Today, as we speak, the FDA is approving your company's vaccine.
AFEYAN: Walter, thanks for having me.
It is, in fact, a very special moment for Moderna and for the hundreds of people that have been working internally and throughout our partnerships to
get to this point.
ISAACSON: So, how many doses are going to be distributed in the next month, in the next two months?
AFEYAN: We have indicated that, already, next week, there will be six million doses or so ready to be shipped out. In December, we're aiming for
20 million doses.
And then it'll be ramped up from there to 30 million in January and then, getting by the end of March, we expect to ship another 100 million doses.
ISAACSON: So, that's the first 100 million which the U.S. has committed to.
What's the next option for the U.S. to get 100 million?
AFEYAN: That will continue into the second quarter. And we have -- as has been disclosed recently, we have received the exercise notice by the U.S.
government of the second 100 million dose order.
In -- according to the original relationship we set up, the U.S. government and has the ability to purchase up to 500 million doses of our output. And
so far, we have received 200 million, and we will be gearing up to produce and ship those.
ISAACSON: And do you think it'll get to 500 million in the U.S. this year, coming year?
AFEYAN: I don't -- I don't know about that. I can't speculate, because it depends so much on rate of uptake, on availability of other vaccines, and
things well beyond our control.
But where -- what we have done is to agree to secure the availability. And as time goes on, we will learn about whether those options are in fact
taken or fulfilled elsewhere.
ISAACSON: The news this morning that is somewhat disconcerting involves the other approved vaccine, the BioNTech/Pfizer one, in which the
distribution system, governors saying that they aren't getting the amounts they expected, things are not working.
How closely are you working with the distribution people at Warp Speed? And are you worried, concerned about this sort of mess-up, it seems, of
AFEYAN: Well, I don't -- Walter, as you can imagine, I don't have direct knowledge of actually what's happening in -- on that topic, simply because
it's quite specific to the producer and the distribution system that they have put in place, which is a bit different than ours.
As you may remember, in our case, the U.S. government actually is responsible for the distribution of our vaccine. And so there's a lot of
planning that's gone into place.
Everything I have seen so far, with the system that has been put in place by General Perna and his people is nothing but really top world-class
And so, of course, we have some degree of anticipation, as we hope our vaccine starts getting shipped, that we not run into any unpredictable
situations. But I can't comment on the exact specifics of what may be happening.
This type of undertaking is so unprecedented, in terms of this volume overnight of distributing vaccines to every state, to every corner of this
country, that one can expect some initial, I'm sure, bumps in the road, which I hope will be addressed and I'm sure will be addressed quickly on
the side of our colleagues at Pfizer.
This is a well-established company, which has vast resources to be able to address any obstacle. So I'm optimistic on their behalf. And I'm hopeful on
ISAACSON: There are 310,000 people in the United States who have died. And we're losing about 3,500 a day at this moment.
How much pressure do you feel, in such an urgent situation, to make sure this comes out right?
AFEYAN: You know, Walter, I -- those numbers are super meaningful to all of us, including in my case where I have had the disease impact fatally a
member of my family.
And so I don't need to kind of feel it anymore. I have a saturating amount of focus on making sure that we can do everything we can. On the other
hand, I think we all have to understand that the production and distribution of something that is as I will call it high-tech in the
context of medicines, as opposed to the pills we take sometimes that really do rely on very different technologies, I think we have to realize that
there's only that much that we can do.
The pressure is -- was high, is high. I'm not sure it can get a lot higher, because we just have to kind of be able to continue to function and
I'm quite confident that the team of Moderna, led by a very, very capable leader, Juan Andres, who has been in the pharma business for decades and a
leader at that, is -- we are doing everything we can.
ISAACSON: You have made a lot of improvements in the particles and the way it can be stored over the years. How much of that intellectual property and
the patents are you sharing with others, and what's your policy on that?
AFEYAN: In fact, Moderna, having been started gone down this path 10 years ago, has amassed quite a substantial intellectual property position, as
well as securing access to any other intellectual property we need to be able to operate in this vast space.
And as we approached the commercial stage, thinking about the next two, three years is when we would normally reach that, we certainly looked at
our intellectual property with a view towards ensuring that our shareholders who invested in there are beneficiaries of that.
But with the COVID situation, we realized that the world needed multiple vaccines, multiple similar vaccines, for that matter. And so, a few months
ago, we took the decision and announced that that the patents that may cover other COVID vaccines that are using similar or the same technology,
we would not -- choose not to enforce during the pandemic, and so that we would enable others to be able to make vaccines free and clear from concern
And this was publicly announced. And we even offered longer-term licenses to folks for COVID-19 vaccines, should they wish to take them even beyond
ISAACSON: When the FDA panel looked at the scientific evidence, they worried a little bit about not using it on children, people with allergies,
pregnant -- people who might be pregnant, and worried, too, a little bit about Bell's palsy.
Tell me a little about the concerns that people should have with this vaccine.
AFEYAN: Even with a trial of 30,000--
AFEYAN: Excuse me -- subjects, there are observations that, if we go up to 30 million subjects, may reveal themselves that were not fully aware of or
In the 30,000-subject trial that we have done with the phase three trial, we have observed and reported on four Bell's palsy situations. One was in
the placebo. Three were in the vaccine arm.
This is a reaction one has seen in many other vaccines as well. It's a seriously, but reversible condition often. And in these cases, it was.
So, what it tells us -- and there were other observations as well. What it tells us is that we need to pay close attention to that and monitor it,
like we do with other vaccines.
And more broadly, with children, I think that the safe approach is to give us a bit of time to test in a new -- in a trial that we have already
announced, the 12-to-18-year-old regime, and then the 6-month to the 12- year-olds, which is coming early next year.
So we want to generate data to arm these decisions. I think the concern is rather about the lack of data, not a particular concern that is related to
the vaccine or a mechanism or a disease. It's simply that we just haven't had the ability to generate even more data and even more subroots to feel
comfortable with a broader use of the vaccine.
ISAACSON: Vice President Pence got his vaccine today. President Trump has not said if or when he will do it.
Are you worried about mixed messages coming out?
AFEYAN: I think that we have to be careful that we not judge everything at any given moment in time, but sequentially.
So, over the next days, over the next weeks, I think that many of the leadership, if not most, if not all, should consider as part of their
leadership mandate to consider whether to take a vaccine and to explain to people in their own ways how they have made that choice.
Same with the health care profession. Same with the leadership and corporations and nonprofits, et cetera, clergy. I think that society will
be looking for all of us in some way to be transparent with our decision process.
And so, if Vice President Pence takes it today, and I know many of the former presidents have indicated readiness, I look forward to everybody
weighing the science, following the guidance that the likes of Dr. Fauci and others have clearly laid out, and the FDA, and to act accordingly,
because the alternative of not taking a vaccine is not that the virus is going to somehow go away. The virus will persist.
And we need to act in a way that we balance and weigh the pros and cons of not taking a vaccine vs. taking one.
ISAACSON: What contact have you had with the incoming Biden administration?
AFEYAN: I have not personally had contact with them as of yet.
I know that folks in -- within Moderna, we have an active government affairs group that have had touch points. We have kept them briefed
throughout this process, making sure that they have all the information that they need, and we look forward to working with them and with all the
states and everybody who is now feeling the responsibility of safely distributing the vaccine and making sure we get production.
ISAACSON: Of the vaccines being rolled out over the coming year, three- quarters of them seem to be dedicated to what I would call the rich countries. What's going to be done to help the poorer countries to make
sure that this didn't remain a global pandemic?
AFEYAN: Look, I foresee two different approaches.
One of them is that there are international bodies such as COVAX that have been set up to aggregate-purchase on behalf of middle- to lower-income
countries adequate supplied and fairly distribute them.
Of course, theirs is an unenviable role because we're talking about 100- plus countries, each with their own laws, their own preferences. So they are undertaking a truly impressive and important effort. Now, they, in
turn, are working with suppliers, including Moderna, to ensure supplies, adequate supplies, timely supplies.
And, of course, each one of our vaccines is slightly different, storage, performance, cost, et cetera. And everybody understands that, from a cost
standpoint, we need to make sure that we make the vaccine available, particularly to lower- and middle-income countries, in a way that can be
And those discussions are actively under way. And I'm sure they will lead to access from all of the vaccine suppliers in time. And we hope it goes
faster as much as possible.
ISAACSON: President Larry Bacow of Harvard used your name in a letter he just sent to president-elect Biden about this issue of immigration.
And he pointed out that 50 percent of the Ph.D.s in the United States right now in science and engineering are from people who were born overseas, and
that one-third of the U.S. Nobel Prize winners in science are people who come from overseas, and that we thus need to get back to an immigration
system that allows people to come here and study, and then stay, as opposed to being sent out.
How do you feel about being part of that letter or mentioned in that letter and about U.S. immigration policy when it comes to science and engineering
AFEYAN: Well, obviously, I was surprised at the mention that President Bacow made, and am honored to some extent that he used my example to
demonstrate the point that, if we continue down a path where we exclude people who come to this country because they expect to contribute, but also
benefit from the opportunities it presents, that we may not have many innovations in any field, not just in science, that we now benefit from.
And so I feel a little bit of an extra burden I have to carry to make sure that that continues to be the case.
But the point is a valid one, you know, I must say that, you know, Americans who come from outside only feel like immigrants when they're made
to feel like immigrants.
I think all of us would rather feel like Americans. We absolutely want to be considered and act as that this is our country and we all have one
common mission, to (INAUDIBLE) and to create opportunity.
So, I do think that the talk about immigration is what has caused a lot of us to feel like, oh, wait a minute, that's me they are talking about 35
years ago, and I look forward to the time when I can feel like as immigrant again -- I mean, as an American again and not just an immigrant.
ISAACSON: What's next for messenger RNA vaccines which Moderna has pioneered and what's next for Moderna?
AFEYAN: Well, 12 months ago as we were wrapping up 2019, we were looking forward to a glorious year of vaccine development at Moderna which had
everything but COVID on its list. We had some 10 different vaccines we had already worked on.
So, we continue to move those forward. But, of course, given the unexpected proof point that the COVID-19 vaccine has represent, we now look forward to
intensifying and expanding our efforts including in a quite significant way in the area of influenza, I do think that influenza we've generally
collectively not looked to attack it more strongly fearing that there's already vaccines and maybe we can't do any better. I think it behooves us
to assume we can do better than what's out there in general and fail trying. And that's what we will do with many different viruses, influenza
being among them.
We've worked in the past on HIV. That's an area we may certainly study further with collaborators, and I should mention parenthetically that one
of our key areas of vaccine focus is cancer, because if we could train the immune system to detect the vulnerabilities of a patient's unique signature
of mutations, we should be able to use the immune system to go after cancer, and there's certainly early indications of that.
So, you know, bottom line, I think the messenger RNA code molecule applied broadly and let's see what the data tells us. Wherever the data suggests
we're having enough of an effect, we will pursue it.
ISAACSON: Dr. Noubar Afeyan, thank you so much for joining us and thank you for what you've been able to do today in rolling out a vaccine.
AFEYAN: Thank you, Walter. Thanks for having me again.
AMANPOUR: And the science really is galloping along. It's really incredible to watch this.
Twenty-five years ago, the Dayton Accords brought peace to Bosnia after a river of blood flowed through the Balkans. The trigger for that diplomacy
was the 1995 massacre of an estimated 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica under the noses of the United Nations peacekeeping forces who
were sent to protect them. It was the worst atrocity on European soil since World War Ii, and it finally forced the west to intervene and stop that
Now, a highly acclaimed new movie called "Quo Vadis, Aida?" tells the story of a local translator who bears witness to it all. Here's a clip, a glimpse
behind the scenes as the Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, now a convicted war criminal, visits the burned-out village of Srebrenica that
has just fallen to his forces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Here we are in Serbian Srebnica on July 11, 1995. On the eve of yet another great Serbian holiday, we give
this town as a gift to the Serbian people. Did I say "Serbian" too much?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't worry, I'll edit it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that clip shows what was also very key throughout the war and that was the propaganda machine, that is the Bosnian Serb leader
telling his people that this is what we did for you. Joining me now is the writer/director of the film, Jasmila Zbanic, and she is coming to us from
her home City of Sarajevo.
Welcome to the program, Jasmila.
It's a very powerful film, and it's very rare to see a feature film. I'm so used to seeing documentaries about what happens in Bosnia, but it really
packs a punch. I mean, it looks like what we all witnessed there. Tell me what made you make it.
JASMILA ZBANIC, WRITER-DIRECTOR, "QUO VADIS, AIDA?" Thank you. Good evening from Sarajevo. So, you know, I was 20 when I -- I was 17 when war
started in 20 when Srebrenica happened. We all believed that it was a safe area protected by U.N.
And when it was taken by the Serbian army, suddenly the whole system fell apart, you know, if violence is winning over United Nations, if it's
winning over all human rights issues, if it's winning at the real (INAUDIBLE) never again after holocaust, then what is left?
And this shock stayed in me for years. I was not aware immediately that I wanted to make a film, but it was always like a fire in me that I want to
do something about it. And later, only we found out how many people got killed in which way, you know, they were buried in mass graves then taken
from these mass graves to another mass graves in order to hide the crimes, I met mothers of Srebrenica whose story was unbearably painful, and their
dignity was such an inspiration how they were going through life with this pain and how they were trying to rebuild society never based on revenge or,
you know, just seeking for justice and for the bodies of their sons, husbands had and family. That's what my inspiration on how everything --
AMANPOUR: Indeed, and, look, ever since then, you're absolutely right, the mothers of Srebrenica forced this issue to stay in the public spotlight
until finally they would get justice.
Now, it is true now that the main perpetrators of that war and the genocidal crime of the massacre at Srebrenica are behind bars at the Hague.
They did see their day in court and they have been convicted. Before we get into the film, are you satisfied with that?
ZBANIC: Look, when I was observing the trial of Mladic and when he was sentenced, I thought I would feel kind of a closing of the chapter. It was
-- you know, half of my life was somehow connected with this post-war situation, the stress of it, the trauma of it. I felt, OK, I will be happy
because something is over, but I wasn't. I was thinking -- not that I was not satisfied with the trial and everything, that was fine, but I was
thinking how -- what is the -- what was left after his act?
Serbs are unhappy. They live very poorly. So many dead people. So many people who are suffering because their loved ones are killed. What is left
after this man? Only misery. And I felt really, really miserable that these kinds of forces made my country so unhappy and they didn't achieve anything
even for their people.
AMANPOUR: Yes. It's really remarkable to hear you put it that way. Let's get to the film. "Quo Vadis, Aida?" OK. Aida plays the role of a Muslim
resident of Srebrenica and she is, you know, employed as a translator as so many people were in Bosnia for the U.N. forces. This is the Dutch
contingent, and as you say, they were there under a U.N. mandate which was to protect the safe area.
And here we see these pictures. We're playing a clip of her as she's translating where all these huge numbers of people should go after they
fled the fall of Srebrenica. Tell me about Aida. Why did you focus on a translator? It's an interesting thing, and what is the meaning of the
title, "Quo Vadis"?
ZBANIC: Yes. I wanted to tell story from female perspective because I think there were a lot of war films done by men, and I always feel I don't
share the same feeling for spectacularity of war. I always feel the war is just the banality of evil, and I rarely see this in the movies.
So, I wanted to have a female character who will lead us through the film that people are able to be in her shoes for these 103 minutes, that people
have to decide what she has to do because she's in such ambivalent position. She's with U.N. translating for them and having more information
than anybody else and also having U.N. badge, which means she's able to do more than any Bosnians, but her family is Bosnian, so she's in between
these two worlds and able to see both.
I wanted to -- not only to show what happened in these days of July but also to connect film with life today, and Aida's returning to Srebrenica,
which for me, when I talk to women of Srebrenica is absolutely amazing that they had courage to go back and look into the eyes of perpetrators because
they lived there, though the main ones are sentenced, there are a lot of people in Srebrenica, in Republika Srpska, in police structures and the
state structures that had bloody hands in war, and they are not sentenced, all of them.
So, this -- going back, you know, which is also story from bible, was for me something which was very touching to go back and not to have this stain
which was from somewhere else but, you know, today saints for me are women and especially women from Srebrenica.
AMANPOUR: Well, she really does stand out in the way you've portrayed her. And, you know, you talked about Srebrenica, which used to be a Bosnian
village and is now kept after Dayton by the people who took it over, the Serbs, as you say.
So, we are talking now because it is 25 years since Dayton which stopped the war and Srebrenica was the trigger for that, but it solidified the
ethnic barriers and boundaries and the nationalism. The what are your feelings today? Do you think that another generation of Bosnians and people
who belong to your country can try to knit the country back again or is it too late?
ZBANIC: Look, it's very hard. Like we were not able to film in Srebrenica because many denies the genocide happened. So, there are forces, sill
political forces, who are having the same kind of language and hate like in the '90s. People know, you know, that these forces are won. They -- we
cannot say peace is just and nothing is wrong. There are many, many things which are very problematic.
What I find also very hard is that this ideology is spread through school systems, through media, you know, kids don't learn about Srebrenica in a
proper way through media. They are hearing about these big clashes of narratives and not facts, not true what happened.
So, you know, this is a very hard question, but, for example, we premiered our film in the memorial center in Srebrenica, and very first screening was
for young people. We decided we don't want this film to be captured by any political parties, any sides. This is a film that is a piece that talks
about Srebrenica, but it's dedicated, you know, to people today.
We showed a film to young people from Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, old Bosnia, and it was so moving to talk after that, and one boy from the
Republika Srpska said he was crying through the whole film and he wishes his friends to see this film and to realize what they are celebrating
because in Republika Srpska Mladic is still a hero.
So, for me, this was a hope, if there --
AMANPOUR: A hero, exactly. I mean, Jasmila, I think you've really just summed it up, just the fact that you had that effect on one Bosnian Serbian
boy is pretty amazing. And that's what it's going to take, isn't, it's going to take people seeing the truth.
I want to play just another clip from the film because it still is really dramatic, and this is basically the evidence of the Dutch trying to call
for air strikes as Mladic, at the time, was bombing and shelling Srebrenica, and they were desperately trying to get the United Nations to
stop, and you can see the result. Let's just play this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to the air strikes? Where's the secretary-general? No, no, surely not. You have to get me someone to talk
to. They all can't be away. You are telling me that the entire U.N. chain of command is vacationing? Then what shall I do then?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Jasmila, it really did sum up the impotence of the U.N. forces who were told to protect and then did not have the authority or the
wherewithal to protect, and it really angered so many people, and they blamed the international community in Bosnia, of course. You know, as you
know, the Dutch -- whole Dutch government had to resign after a 2002 report on this. What are your feelings about that moment today, about
responsibility of the world?
ZBANIC: Yes. I think it was political decision that Srebrenica is belonging to the Republika Srpska and this political decision was blocking
United Nations, and this is something which we feel huge pain why it happened, but also, you know, if we talk about today, United Nations are
still not free.
We have institutions that we need to protect to be free from political interests, and this film is not against U.N. though it shows how cowardly
Dutch commanders behaved, how they could protect people but they didn't, even if they had very limited means, but I hope that the film will inspire
people to give more independency to the United Nations and to all institutions that are protecting human rights.
I think we -- especially today, in this political constellation that we have in the world, we need to take care of our institutions who are
protecting the human beings.
AMANPOUR: Jasmila, I want to ask you very quickly. You know, I met General Mladic several times, and I talked to him a lot, and like all of that side,
there was a lot of fake news being put around, and they try to tell the world that the Muslims, the Bosnians were actually shelling themselves and
trying to bring the west in to help by doing that. That was clearly not true, but they did tell a lot of important people that. What is your
reflection on the power to manipulate and essentially create fake news that has such an impact?
ZBANIC: Yes. These fake news were so present in '90s that we learned how to recognize them so when the situation in U.S. was, you know, changing
with fake news, we all from Bosnia were like, we recognize this. It's exactly the same system of propaganda that was happening to us, and it's
still going on because there are forces who still want to keep status quo in Bosnia.
For example, there was a critique about my film saying that -- who invited two war criminals to talk about a film, and what they said was, you know,
this film is against all Serbian people and that they're saying all Serbian people committed genocide, which is not true. Genocide was committed by
Ratko Mladic and others and not all Serbian people, and this is what war criminals want, to have whole nation as a hostage. And me as a Bosnian
living in Bosnia I don't want this. I want my Serbian friends and cousins to be free from this kind of narrative and fake news and fake information.
We tried with this film to really be as precise as possible with facts so that people can go into the story with the main character.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, it's really effective. It's really great, and the Bosnian film academy I think is going to enter the film as their -- you
know, as their entry into the Oscars for next year. So, we wish you good luck.
Thank you, Jasmila Zbanic. Well done. "Quo Vadis, Aida?"
ZBANIC: Thank you very much. We miss you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
And finally, tonight, a deep dive into the great unknown. This unforgettably forgettable year has made a lot of us want to escape into
nature. What if your escape took you more than 100 meters below sea level with no mask, no goggles and no oxygen tank?
Well, for Alenka Artnik it is not just an escape, it is a daring sport where she's found great success. And she's a four-time world champion who
world the women's free diving record. Last month she spent more than 3:30 minutes under water while holding her breath. She has since come up for air
and joins us from France.
Welcome to the program.
ALENKA ARTNIK, WOMEN'S FREEDIVING WORLD RECORD HOLDER: Hello. Hello, good evening.
AMANPOUR: Good evening. It was an incredible, incredible feat. I mean, tell me what it is like, I guess, the night before you're going to do this,
you're going to attempt this world record. Were you calm? Were you worried? I mean, what had to be going through your mind?
ARTNIK: Well, obviously, you know, I was very excited, and it was really hard to calm down, you know, my mind. So, basically, I couldn't fall asleep
the whole night and then the next morning when I kind of woke up, I knew it's going to be really, really hard. So, that's exactly why I knew also
that I have to concentrate, let's say, lack of body power with my mind, and this is exactly what I did.
AMANPOUR: Well, look, we're looking at this amazing video of you. It's Sharm el-Sheikh off the Red Sea of Egypt and it is you with the mono fin
going down that line. Tell me physically what it feels like, your lungs, your head, the pressure of trying to get down there that deep?
ARTNIK: Yes, well, this is really, really a demanding dive. You have to know that I am basically training the whole year every day for this one
single dive. So, I need to spend a lot of hours in the pool, in the gym. I have to do a lot of specific breath hold training in order to be capable to
do something like that. But most all I need to be mentally really strong.
Like the focus has to be really, really, really strong and the ability to be completely relaxed, because, as you mentioned, the pressure is getting
stronger and stronger. So, basically, every 10 meters there is additional bar. And so, you can just imagine the pressure is really strong. So, it's
really, really important that you are like able to basically surrender to this pressure.
AMANPOUR: Wow. Surrender to this pressure. I can't imagine it and I'm not sure what you mean by that. I realize it's a term. And then you have to
come up again. So, what is surrender mean?
ARTNIK: Yes. Well, it's like, you know, first of all, obviously, because of the pressure, the physical pressure, you need to surrender. You need to
relax your bold. So, if you put your physical body in kind of like a cramp, then you're just creating even more pressure and then it's impossible to
equalize the pressure because we have to equalize in order to go deep. So, this is the first thing.
Second thing, surrender mentally. You know, you need to kind of -- the surface, the life, on the surface, you need to leave it there. You need to
be completely, completely in the present moment, completely focused and that's basically surrendering. And as you said, when you do the turn, this
is not game over because you basically need to swim up for another 140 meters.
So, this is -- in this moment, it's very crucial that I don't start thinking about like, you know, celebrating, let's say that I have a world
record or something, I need to keep the focus until the very end, until the moment when I come up to the surface and then I do this protocol. And then
after that, I could celebrate.
AMANPOUR: Well, I just -- it is extraordinary, and, you know, we have to keep saying you hold the women's world record for this, and it's
incredible. You though didn't get to it until you were about 30. What made you do it? What was going on in your life? You know, what did free diving,
you know, offer you?
ARTNIK: Yes. Well, maybe because of my age but also like, you know, in that period of my life I was really unhappy. I couldn't find anything that,
you know, I could really enjoy. I didn't know what my talent was.
So, one day I was offered to do this training in the pool, and after the first attempt, after the first, let's say, underwater swim, I knew it, that
was it. I just -- I was not -- I didn't understand how far it will go, but I just knew, yes, this is it. This is me. I felt like I could finally
speak. I could finally communicate even though it was just swimming underwater.
And it was so strong that, you know, I didn't -- I never let it go. From that moment on, I just kept on holding and I was just building, that means
also I was training more to the point when I was like 35 and I decided to be a professional athlete, and I'm still on this path.
AMANPOUR: Alenka, thank you so much indeed for joining us. I really appreciate it. I wish we could talk more because it's an exceptional
experience that you've had, but congratulations.
And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching, and good-bye from London.