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Judas and the Black Messiah; America's Longest War. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 3, 2021 - 14:00 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.
TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're not simply picking up where we left off, as if the past four years didn't happen.
AMANPOUR: Secretary of State Blinken sets out America's new global strategy. We take a close look at the longest war in Afghanistan and the
little known story of a female-led Kurdish militia who helped defeat ISIS.
We talk to retired General John Allen and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of the bestselling book "The Daughters of Kobani."
Plus: the life and murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. Shaka King, director of "Judas and the Black Messiah," joins us, with breakout star
KARLA CORNEJO VILLAVICENCIO, AUTHOR, "THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS": I knew that ICE could stop us at any time. When you live with that fear as a child
all the time, it changes your brain.
AMANPOUR: How immigration impacts trauma.
Acclaimed writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio shares her eye-opening personal story with contributor Aarti Shahani.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
America's top diplomat addressed his country and the world today, laying out President Biden's main foreign policy priorities. Secretary of state
Antony Blinken made the case that sound policy abroad helps Americans at home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLINKEN: Whether we like it or not, the world does not organize itself. When the U.S. pulls back, one of two things is likely to happen. Either
another country tries to take our place, but not in a way that advances our interests and values, or, maybe just as bad, no one steps up. And then we
get chaos and all the dangers it creates.
Either way, that's not good for America.
AMANPOUR: Now, in less than two months, Biden must decide if he will need a May 1 deadline to remove the remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan, this
as three female media workers were gunned down there on Tuesday.
Women are up against extremists all over the world. And nowhere was that more apparent than in the Syrian town of Kobani, where an all-female
Kurdish militia force defeated ISIS there in 2014. It's the story of the bestselling book "The Daughters of Kobani." Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
joins us and retired General John Allen, who led the global coalition against ISIS, and who was also commander of international forces in
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
I do want to start with Afghanistan, because I think Americans just want to know what's happening and what the prospects are for the longest war that
was obviously entered after 9/11.
Can I ask you, General Allen, do you believe that, under the so-called Doha Agreement, where the Taliban are meant to come into some sort of peace
accord with the elected government, do you believe that that's solid enough that conditions have been met that would cause the U.S. to safely meet its
end of the bargain and put out U.S. troops May 1?
LT. GEN. JOHN ALLEN (RET.), FORMER U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN COMMANDER: Well, Christiane, thanks for having me on. It's always good to be with you,
and, of course, to be with Gayle.
The answer is, no, I don't believe they have. The Taliban, we should not be surprised at all to know that they have not divorced themselves from al
Qaeda. They have not set the conditions for a comprehensive peace agreement with the sitting government that has been our ally for many years.
We have had some initial discussions. But there has been no real progress on what has been the so-called intra-Afghan conversation.
And one of my biggest concerns is that, while the Taliban had to agree to broad, probably unmeasurable conditions, we set some pretty -- pretty clear
standards with respect to our departure, which was a 1 May departure.
And the Taliban had to agree that the -- that Afghanistan would not be used as a platform for terrorism against United States and the West, something
they have no capacity to do. And, ultimately, I believe that they have not committed to divorcing themselves from al Qaeda, which has got to be a
major precondition for our departure.
My biggest concern, of course, is that the women of Afghanistan are the ones that will suffer the most, both from our agreement, and then,
ultimately, whatever kind of intra-Afghan agreement would result.
We should not be surprised and should not have anything other than her eyes wide open when we deal with the Taliban and their relationship with women.
And I think, in many respects, we left them uncovered with our agreement, and we should be -- as the leading state within the international coalition
Afghanistan, we should be a voice that looks after the rights of women.
And International Women's Day is next week. And now is the moment that we should be rededicating ourselves to the rights of women around the world.
And I think we have got a lot to answer for if we pull out on the 1st of May, and leave the women of Afghanistan to the follow-on agreement.
AMANPOUR: So, Gayle, let me turn to you, because you have obviously spent a lot of time there reporting. As I said, three women in Afghanistan were
gunned down. I mean, they were assassinated, I think in Jalalabad.
Apparently, the ISIS faction in Afghanistan and Pakistan has claimed responsibility. The Taliban is denying it. But who really knows. I want to
ask you to respond to what the first lady of Afghanistan told me. Rula Ghani spoke about all the promises made to women and actually all the
progress made to women since the U.S. first chased out al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Let's just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RULA GHANI, AFGHAN FIRST LADY: When the peace talks started in Doha, we always heard that it would be at the cost of the rights of the women. And
what was really very interesting and very warming for me is that the women did not lie down and accept it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, what -- I mean, she's right. And what do you think about the prospect for women, if, indeed, the Taliban is
allowed to enter government without having met the strict conditions that the U.S. posed?
GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, AUTHOR,"THE DAUGHTERS OF KOBANI: A STORY OF REBELLION, COURAGE, AND JUSTICE": So, women's participation in the future
of Afghanistan, as we have talked about peace talks, has always been seen as a nice-to-have, rather than a national security imperative.
And I think what women in Afghanistan are saying -- and I have the privilege of talking to a lot of them fairly regularly -- is that we have a
stake in the future of our nation.
And for the United States, this is not a nice-to-have. This is truly about not the when or the whether do you leave Afghanistan, because, clearly,
there will be a day, but the how.
These are America's allies. These are the world's allies in the fight against extremism. And that whole discussion of ungoverned spaces, what do
you think will occupy those spaces? You need people who are fighting every single day for their communities, for jobs, for education, for the future,
for connectedness to the global economy.
And that is what Afghan women have been fighting for since 2001, and what they have been saying very much for themselves quite loudly.
AMANPOUR: General Allen, you said just a few moments ago that you don't believe -- you don't -- you cannot say with confidence that Afghanistan
will not be a launching pad for ISIS or other terror against the United States currently, because the Taliban and because of ISIS.
Also, President Trump removed America's leverage against the Taliban when he said before there was a deal that they would remove all U.S. troops.
Let me just play you what President Ghani told me about his hopes for an inclusive Afghanistan. And then I want to ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHRAF GHANI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: One thing needs to be clear. Afghan society is not willing to go back. And we are not the type of
society that the Taliban-type approach of the past can be imposed on us. That was the piece of the graveyard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, General Allen, what would you advise President Biden?
Clearly, America, I guess is tired of this war that started after 9/11. But it's -- we're only talking 2,500 U.S. troops who are there to train Afghan
security forces. Can you make the case for them being necessary?
ALLEN: I can.
First, it's not just the U.S. troops. We're there with a coalition of NATO. And much of that conversation that occurred before, the so-called Doha
Agreement, was made without the kind of consultation that we should have been making with our allies.
First and foremost, I think that, as Secretary Blinken said a few moments ago, we are going to step on the international stage. And we're going to do
it with our partners in a multilateral way. This has got to be the conversation about the future of Afghanistan.
And the future of Afghan peace has got to have an international voice in the matter. And we need to consult with our allies on this. And we need to
be very close in the conversation with the Ghani government going forward, for all the reasons I just said.
Look, anyone who knows the Taliban knows, that whether it's the Quetta Shura Taliban or the Peshawar Shura Taliban, they don't have the full
capacity to dominate the ground as they seem to convey in these agreements. They just don't.
And so the idea that they can unilaterally guarantee that they will cut their relationship with al Qaeda, which they haven't, and to guarantee the
United States and the West that Afghanistan will not be a launching pad for terrorism against the United States and the West, that's a very limited
And so I think we should advise President Ghani that we will work with him closely, along with our allies, to try to come to a more comprehensive
agreement with the Taliban. But the agreement right now, in many respects, leaves the Ghani government to have probably endless conversations with the
Taliban and an inconclusive outcome if we leave, if we leave.
And we should stay there to support him, to support the gains of women. And by virtue of our remaining with our NATO partners in largely a training
role, and not a combat role at all, really, we can guarantee that there will be a continued international president in Afghanistan, which will look
after the interests of women, which will look after the interests of the young generation of Afghans, who are really the future.
And Gayle got it right. When they killed those three young women journalists in Jalalabad, that was not just to terrorize the women of
Afghanistan. It was to kill the future of Afghanistan. And that's a message that's loud and clear, not just to the women of Afghanistan and to the
Afghans more broadly. It's a message very clearly to us.
And by leaving on 1 May, we abandon the women, we abandon the Afghan people who are struggling, ultimately, to achieve modernity and a place in the
world that is their right and is possible. But it won't be possible if we pull out entirely and leave this to the Taliban, with their al Qaeda
allies, to impose something, an emirate of some form or another on the Ghani government and our Afghan partners.
AMANPOUR: So, let's dive into your investigation and your book Gayle, because it ties all these together.
It is a very little known story, but it's an incredible story, the heroism of the Daughters of Kobani, who, in 2014, actually did fight ISIS and
defeat them in the town of Kobani in Syria.
Tell me how you first learned about them. How is it that these women are actually leading a fighting force, and that they're so competent and so
LEMMON: This really is a story about the David vs. Goliath showdown in 2014, at a moment when the Islamic State had not had any battlefield
And this fighting force, in the town of Kobani, that CNN catapulted onto the global stage, which, when David also happened to be a woman, right? You
had a fighting force that had women's emancipation and women's equality right at the heart of who it was, up against the men of the Islamic State,
who, at the core of their ideology, had the buying and selling of women.
And this was at a time when the United States and the world was deeply concerned about the security threat, the direct security threat posed to it
by the Islamic State.
And you see this force that very few people had heard of outside, Syrian Kurds at that time, also with the Iraqi Peshmerga, and some members of Free
Syrian Army, who make a stand against ISIS and get really to capture the world's attention by fighting town by town, street by street against ISIS.
And I first heard of it from a U.S. service member who had been part of my second book, "Ashley's War," and she called me from Syria. And she said:
"You must come see this, because there are women leading the fight against ISIS. And they have the full respect of the men alongside whom they fight,
plus the U.S. special operations forces who are on the ground in a light footprint working alongside them."
And she said: "And not only are they fighting ISIS, but they're fighting for women's equality."
And I think, with that, who wouldn't want to tell that story?
AMANPOUR: So, General Allen, they had your backing. They had U.S. backing.
What did you see, as the U.S. commander, the coordinator of the fight, the global fight against ISIS? What did you see in these women? And did it
ALLEN: Well, I think Gayle really did a great job with this book. She gives us the strategic look of the war at that particular moment, but
brings it right down to a human level, which I think we all needed to see among the individual troops within the women's protective unit. So, she did
-- really did a terrific job.
We were surprised, frankly. Look, at the time, I was dealing a lot with the Turks. And the maps that we were working off of, Christiane, had the
Turkish-Syrian border, everything below it in Syria was colored black, for the flag of the Islamic State. Basically, the entire border had been taken
over by the Islamic State.
And there were a few outposts. One of them was Kobani. Another was Talaybyat (ph), where the women also did extraordinarily well in fighting.
We didn't know where this was going to go. We were afraid -- we fully expected that it was the intent of the Islamic State to eliminate Kobani,
and as they had done in other places -- we have seen it horrifically in other places -- just execute the male population and sell the women into
slavery, as they had done with these Yazidis.
And, look, it's horrific. And so the president of the United States made the decision that we were going to pour in airpower to support them. And
this is where we discovered this remarkable group of fighters. First of all, the Kurdish fighters, writ large, in the Syrian Democratic Forces,
very brave, very courageous, very capable, very deserving of the U.S. and coalition support.
But within those forces were these women, these female units, led by women, all-female units, and they were ferocious infantry fighters. As is the case
with other countries, women will have different roles in their military. But these women unit -- these women protective units within the larger
formations of Kurdish fighters, they were ferocious fighters.
And they were fighting house to house and street to street, along with their male counterparts in male units. So, it wasn't uncommon at all to
find them in action. And so we were surprised. And we were stunned, frankly, to see that they existed. They were coherent units, and they were
destroying ISIS units as they got into close combat with them in the ruins of Kobani and in other places, frankly, along the Syrian border.
And, eventually, there were elements within these units. There were women units that were in the lead in the final attack against Raqqa, which was,
if you will, the capital of the Islamic State in Syria along the Euphrates River.
ALLEN: They were leaders in the attack.
AMANPOUR: So, let me--
ALLEN: Go ahead, please.
AMANPOUR: Which is incredible. And it's just -- well, no, it's just an incredible story. And it's one that really needs to be told.
And I just wondered, from you, Gayle, ISIS must have freaked out. I mean, their whole ideology is anti-women, just like the Taliban. I mean, that is
-- that's their whole ideology, as well as mass murder. But how did they cope with being fought by women? And a subsequent question is, is ISIS
defeated in that area in Syria right now?
LEMMON: So, at the beginning -- and you see this in "The Daughters of Kobani" -- at the beginning, Azima (ph), one of the snipers that we meet,
she hears on the radio the ISIS fighters talking to each other, saying: "Make sure you kill all the women."
And at, what, three weeks in, four weeks into the fight, it's: Make sure you don't get killed by those women snipers, because they're very tricky.
They had this -- they heard -- and the book really takes you into that connectivity. They were listening to ISIS men say: We're going to come
find you. We're going to come enslave you.
And these women, Azima, Roshda (ph), Naruz (ph), right, they basically say, listen, our actions will speak for us.
And there's a moment in the story where Naruz, the head of the women's protection forces, is talking to her field commanders. They're low on
people, low on food, low on weapons, low on ammunition, but they have spirit.
And she says to Azima and to Roshda: "These men think you are worth nothing. Show them what you're made up, so that even if this is your last
breath, it will stand for something."
And I think it's been so moving to see people be inspired by that courage.
And in terms of whether ISIS is over, no. I mean, there's a moment toward the end of the book where one of the U.S. special operations soldiers is
looking around the Raqqa fight and realizing the world has yet to really reckon with the fight against the Islamic State and the enduring cost of
And it's much easier to kill a terrorist than to slay an ideology. Today, the same people who are in this story are working to keep the pressure on
ISIS, even as the world looks to move on from this fight, which is not yet over.
AMANPOUR: It's a remarkable story. And, of course, it brings us all the way back to Afghanistan. So it's full circle.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and General John Allen, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
And now we're going to revisit the anti-war/pro-civil rights movements of the 1960s in the United States. This week, acclaimed actor Daniel Kaluuya
earned a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in the film "Judas and the Black Messiah."
It's yet another story of the FBI's relentless pursuit of black leaders. In this case, the Bureau persuaded an informant to betray the 21-year-old
Hampton, ultimately leading to his murder in a deadly police raid.
Here's a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Black Panthers are the single greatest threat to our national security. Our counterintelligence program must prevent the rise of
a black messiah.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You're looking at 18 months for the stolen car, five years for impersonating a federal officer. Or you can get home.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What do you want?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Get close to Hampton.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The Black Panthers are forming a Rainbow Coalition of oppressed brothers and sisters of every color!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHEEN: Neutralize him by any means necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Here with me now is the film's director, Shaka King, and breakout star Dominique Fishback, who portrays Hampton's girlfriend,
Deborah Johnson, in the film.
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
Shaka King, I want to ask you, what was your intention when you made this film? Was it to expose the FBI? Was it to tell people a fuller story of the
Black Panthers? What was it?
SHAKA KING, DIRECTOR: All of the above.
The goal was to put forth the true history out there, of course, but also to humanize this icon, and really crystallize just the human sacrifice that
he and his comrades made.
AMANPOUR: So, Fred Hampton was the chairman, I think, of the Illinois chapter or the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers. Is that correct?
How big a figure was he?
KING: Yes, the Illinois chapter
He was not only -- and, mind you, he was only the chairman for one year. And in that time, not only did he become a major figure in Chicago
politics, but he was being primed essentially to run the party on a national level. And I think that was a big part of the reason why he was
AMANPOUR: I want to play this clip.
It's when Fred Hampton is in the hall talking to his people. And he's talking about, you can attack a person, but not the ideology. Let's just
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL KALUUYA, ACTOR: You can murder a liberator, but you can't murder liberation. You can murder a revolutionary, but you can't murder
You can murder a freedom fighter, but you can't murder freedom!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Dominique Fishback, that's you there playing Deborah Johnson. And you're emotional. You're wiping tears away. What was it like for you to
play that role? And how much of the story did you know before -- you know, before you were cast?
DOMINIQUE FISHBACK, ACTRESS: Yes.
Unfortunately, growing up in Brooklyn, in East New York, we didn't really learn about the Black Panther Party. It wasn't until I got to college, and
I was in the black student union did I first hear Chairman Fred's name.
So, when I got the e-mail that Shaka wanted me to play Deborah Johnson, I knew that Chairman Fred was assassinated at 21 years old. I knew that his
pregnant fiancee was in the bed with him and the she shielded his body, and I knew that he was betrayed by an FBI informant that pretended to be a
But I didn't know about the Rainbow Coalition and all of the things that he did for Chicago. So that's kind of how I initially started. I was reading a
book called "A Taste of Power" by Elaine Brown, who was a Panther in the Oakland chapter.
And how I got into the character, just journaling, listening to Mama Akua, formerly known as Deborah Johnson, her insight, and Chairman Fred Jr.'s
AMANPOUR: And what sticks out for you the most? Because I think -- Shaka King, if I'm not mistaken, I think you specifically chose -- you
specifically chose Dominique for this role. I think you wrote the Fred Hampton roll for Daniel Kaluuya.
Is that correct? You sort of saw them first before getting them on board?
KING: Yes, I wrote it for Daniel, for Dominique, even for Jesse. I had the four of them in mind for those four roles.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to play another clip, because it's really, really interesting. And it follows on from -- we hear that Deborah Johnson, as she
was in real life, was talking about poetry.
And then there's this clip where she's actually reading a poem to Fred Hampton, and we will talk about it after Let's just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FISHBACK: I want to share something with you.
Like the masses, I was in awe, when I first laid eyes on all the things you are. I heard that speech, and where that indent pierced your cheek, I knew
we would make noise. I just -- I thought it would be in the streets. What magic a philistine and a poet could create.
KALUUYA: A philistine? Who you calling a philistine?
FISHBACK: You seriously interrupting me right now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I love that bit. I love the way it ends, where you're telling him, don't interrupt me. I'm being serious here.
And I understand that you actually wrote that poem. It wasn't a script that was given to you. Tell me how that came together.
FISHBACK: I met with Shaka in a cafe in Brooklyn. And he told me that he wrote the role for me. And he wanted me to read the script and let him know
So, I read the script. And I gave him an e-mail about all of the things that I loved. And I said: "I have two thoughts, but I don't want to
overstep. So let me know if you want to hear them."
And he said: "Oh, you will be playing her. You can't overstep. Give me your notes."
And one of them was, one of the first things she says to Chairman Fred in the movie is, do you like poetry? And the Panthers and were very poetic
people, but we don't -- we don't hear a poem. I think we miss an opportunity. He says: "I think you're right. Do you want to take a shot at
I was completely shocked that he asked me to do it. And then I got to hear from Fredrika Newton, who was the widow of Huey P. Newton, and she said she
was really happy that can be covered for the fact that there was a lot of poets and that, even though it was a war and it was a revolution, they did
get the opportunity to express themselves poetically, and that was a nice touch.
So I'm glad we got to get that in there.
AMANPOUR: But also -- yes, it was really a nice touch. And it just seemed so natural, the way Daniel Kaluuya, Fred Hampton, sort of tried to sort of
tease you, I guess, about using the word philistine, and you sort of batted him away and insisted on continuing the poem.
But, Shaka King, it's also a story about a romance. It's not just a heavy- duty political -- also a tragedy, obviously. I mean, there's an assassination. But it looks like you clearly wanted to make these political
people three- or four-dimensional?
I mean, I think the thing is, in order to crystallize the sacrifice that they made, you have to humanize them. So, I think there's a -- I mean, just
from a narrative storytelling perspective, obviously, you want to humanize all your characters, so that they're interesting, and the audience connects
with them on an empathetic level.
But I think, from a political perspective, if you want to really kind of drive home the fact that this man lost his life, Mark Clark lost his life.
He -- in the case of Fred Hampton, he sacrificed fatherhood and the option to marry and have a family.
These are things that I think a lot of times we lose when we look at the lives of revolutionaries, even though they really did put a lot on the
AMANPOUR: I mean, they really did. In the final slate after the film, I was actually shocked to see that Fred Hampton was 21 when he was
And I think Dominique -- Deborah Johnson, as she was then was, I think, 19.
But I'm also fascinated, Shaka, about there are several films out which are illuminating the Hoover FBI's pursuit of black activists, black leaders,
black movement leaders.
And, you know, your informer in this film was also a really strong character. And talk to me about that, how you feel when you know that
actually, you know, people like Fred Hampton and others were betrayed from the inside.
KING: It is -- you know, I can't say that I sort of have a really emotional response to that information. I think because, you know, I really
feel like what we did was we sort of contextualize O'Neal's behaviors and actions in a lot of ways.
So, I think because of that, I think that there -- you know, I think there are those people who they, you know, look at the actions is of William
O'Neal and they kind of immediately label him as, you know, a coward or a sellout, but I think that we lose in doing that an opportunity to just
interrogate sort of the potential for that kind of behavior in us, because, you know, it isn't like this guy started out completely willing to commit
murder, which is essentially what he did.
You know, he started out looking to avoid going to prison, you know. And essentially, in his mind, sitting in on a few meetings. And then,
obviously, he was seduced by money and manipulated and led to commit this terrible act. But, you know, I think that I'm able to sort of see the sort
of flawed human in him. And in doing do, I don't -- I don't know, I just see a man in a lot of ways, a really flawed scared coward, but still a man.
AMANPOUR: And again, it shocked me seeing the slate afterwards. I think that he was 17, William O'Neal, when he was -- when he began to be
recruited by the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover. And he only gave one interview after the murder ever. He only gave one, you know, interview ever that we can
find, and it was for a pretty distinguished PBS program. And after that, the real William O'Neal committed suicide by running into traffic. It's --
I mean, that's kind of almost all you need to know about the story. How did that affect you, Dominique?
FISHBACK: So, what exactly?
AMANPOUR: Just, you know, the fact that the informant -- because he's a big part of the film. In real life, he killed himself because of this
action that you are portraying in this film?
FISHBACK: Yes. I mean, if -- I feel -- I mean, if I'm going to go there, I was kind of like, did he do it or did the FBI have something to do it? I
don't know. You know, like, I'm kind of a skeptic because we know now that we've been taught for so long in our history books one thing and then we
come to find out another. So, I'm just kind of wear of the government and of the FBI to be honest.
I -- but I did feel that level of remorse that he must have had in his heart was too much. It was on MLK day and there was just a lot of symbolism
in it for him to have been racked with guilt and then to take his own life.
AMANPOUR: And let's not forget that the climax of the movie is when, you know, basically, the FBI, the police shoot, I believe it's 90 rounds into
the apartment where Fred Hampton is and your character is there as well, and there's only one round that shot from inside. And anyway, Fred Hampton
Shaka King, this seems like with the big star power that you had, and Daniel Kaluuya, you had Ryan Coogler of "Black Panther" as a producer, it's
seems like it should have been a no-brainer for, I guess, big platforms, big studios to pick up, but it wasn't. Why do you think that is?
KING: Because Hollywood is as racist as, you know, the rest of the world. You know, our movie was significantly devalued. And, you know, I really
don't have time to sort of go into, you know, the kind of lesson as to how movies get greenlit in Hollywood.
But essentially, our algorithms and, you know, the algorithms are incredibly flawed and they essentially devalue black actors and say that
they don't, you know, sell well internationally. And so, for those reasons, it becomes very hard to get a movie with black movie stars often financed.
A lot more difficult than it is with, you know, white movie stars.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Is that one of the reasons why? I mean, there's obviously been some, you know, talk about why some of the great American black heroes
have been played by British black actors, whether it is Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet Tubman in "Harriet." Again, Daniel Kaluuya playing Fred.
David Oyelowo in "Selma," obviously in "12 Years of Slave." Is that to try to get it sold overseas?
KING: Well, I can't speak for those other films. You know, in the case of our movies, like I said, I envisioned Daniele and Keith and Dominique and
Jesse, you know, from the moment I was sitting looking at a blank page. And so, that was just an instinctive, intuitive artistic decision.
But I have, you know, in thinking about the same question that you raised, considered the fact that it would not surprise me if, you know, one of the
reasons that you are seeing, specifically in mid-budget tier, which is, you know, it's a kind of, you know, genre of movies, if you will, that is
shrinking significantly, and they make less and less of them a year.
You know, those movies that are anywhere from like $30 to $90 million, they are really hard to get financed and it would not surprise me if, you know,
one of the reasons -- and by the way, period, biopics all fit generally within that range, and it would not surprise me if one of the reasons why
you see, you know, biopics about black historical figures (INAUDIBLE) largely, you know, as you pointed out by U.K.-based black actors is because
I think that the studios are probably more comfortable with those, you know, actors being able to sell internationally, just in the U.K., but even
potentially former U.K. colonies. So, you know, it would not surprise me if that, you know, was a factor, you know.
AMANPOUR: And finally, to you, Dominique, you know, Debra Johnson in the film was really heroically courageous, and there is that scene where she
tries to protect Fred Hampton, her fianc,, she's pregnant, with body when - - you know, when all hell is breaking loose. And I know you visited with and, you know, you got quite a lot of -- talked a lot to Debra Johnson.
What was your relationship? What did you get out of her?
FISHBACK: Well, we went to Chicago before filming and we sat around a table with the family for over seven hours, and (INAUDIBLE) went around and
said, I want to know why every single one of you want to do this movie, and he started with Daniel. And I was so nervous. Then he came around to me and
I said, I've been in my piece and then Mama Akua, formerly known as Deborah Johnson, pulled Daniel and I to the side and asked how we were going to
One of the things that she said was during the actual raid, she did not cry, and that was something that Shaka and all of us wanted to honor. And -
- but she really didn't -- she really allowed me to build the character based off of my own intentions and my own intuition.
So, I -- like I said, I journaled a lot. I wrote a lot of poetry. So, the first time they kissed, the first they meet, I really wanted to build the
world inside so that when she looks at Fred in the movie, you can see that there is a whole world behind her eyes even if we don't hear every thought
or every poem that she may write.
The second day on set, Mama Akua was there and she wanted to see me. And I came down and she said, you did that scene. That was a Deborah Johnson up
there. You did that scene. So, that was really beautiful to me because there's not a lot of footage of her at that age. So, like, again, I really
went on my own instinct and really went from a heart space. And so, for her to recognize herself in what we were doing was just more ammo for us to
continue in that direction.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, it is a really powerful film. Dominique Fishback and Shaka King, thank you so much. "Judas and the Black Messiah,"
lots of Oscar buzz as well. Thank you for joining us.
Now, the Biden administration has made one of its top priorities, immigration reform. Rarely do we hear from immigrants themselves about the
long-term impact of family separation, especially on children.
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was just 18 months old when her parents left her behind in Ecuador to move to the United States. They returned a few
years later, but Carla still lives with the consequences of that decision, and worries for other children who without their parents. In her book, "The
Undocumented Americans," she shares her own story and those of others fighting for survival. And here she is talking with contributor, Aarti
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AARTI SHAHANI, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. And, Karla, welcome to the show today.
KARLA CORNEJO VILLAVICENCIO, AUTHOR, "THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS": Thank you for having me.
SHAHANI: So, Karla, you experienced family separation. In a different context, albeit, when you were a baby, your parents decided to go from
leave Ecuador to New York City, and they left you behind with family and sent for you years later when you were around age 5. What was that
experience for you?
VILLAVICENCIO: I was separated from my parents at a prime developmental stage. I was 18 months old. I don't think I was done being weaned. And I
reunited with them when I was shy of 5 years old.
And for many years, therapists would tell me that it had impacted me. But I thought that it was low hanging fruit. I thought that laziest therapists
would just point at that and say that it had impacted me. And I thought I'm like a literary scholar. I'm a writer. I can close read my life better than
anyone. That's lazy. And I would just leave them.
And then it became apparent as I both had more knowledge of my mental illnesses, and I did more research into migrant communities that there is
like tangible material, psychological impact in the lives of children when separated from their parents in an early age and it manifest itself through
trauma that can and/or cannot develop into mental illness. And I have to be careful around how I speak about that, because like most societies,
American society has such a taboo around it.
So, to speak about the fact that the children who are in cages right now, when they are in their late teens or early 20s, they might develop mental
illnesses. That's a risky thing to say. That's already issuing them, you know, declarations of stigma that they don't deserve.
SHAHANI: You don't want to stigmatize them but it is genuinely your concern as well?
SHAHANI: And personal experience?
VILLAVICENCIO: I am a high functioning person. I'm a very successful person. I have been batting -- I don't know the baseball terms. I probably
have like A-rod's, like, batting status, whatever. I've batted every single thing life has thrown at me perfectly. And yet, I live with the mental
illness, specifically with borderline personally disorder.
And what that specifically is, is that when I was young, when I was a child, I had an attachment disruption. And I was not soothed when I was in
distress. There was no adult who took care of me when I felt scared or alone or when I was in trouble. Part of this may be biological. It likely
is because there is intergenerational trauma in my family, like many of our families. But I was neglected emotionally. I was -- I never learned to
And when I was reunited with my parents, I lived a life of -- my parents gave me everything they possibly could. They loved me. They nurtured me.
They encouraged me. I mean, I think they literally thought that I could be like concurrently president of the United States and Ecuador at the same
time (INAUDIBLE) what the constitution said.
SHAHANI: No pressure.
VILLAVICENCIO: But I lived with precarity, you know. I knew that I could stop it at any time. When you live with that fear as a child all the time,
it changes your brain. Your brain is still forming.
My father changed every day until he eventually fell apart because of racist and xenophobic abuse and labor abuse and wage theft in this country.
My mother fell apart for similar ways. And I had to watch that as a child. And eventually, I started parenting them. And I -- my parents are alive,
but they are not my parents anymore, they are people I take care of.
And I know that this is the fate of many of these children if they are allowed to stay in the United States, that will be considered a win by some
people. But I know that even if they go to Harvard on a full ride like I did, even if they go to Yale and get a Ph.D. like I did or like I'm about
to, even if they are writing books and novels and TV shows like I am doing, they will feel panic in their body every time they just get a flashback of
a memory about their parents and how they can't save them or about any immigrant and how they can't save them.
They will need medical help. They will need tools that this country does not have the infrastructure for, especially for children of color,
especially for black immigrants, especially for undocumented kids, and that's what scares me.
SHAHANI: It sounds like you have a very strong caution that you are trying to give -- that you're giving through your writing, through your speaking
to political leadership in this country. I am paraphrasing. But what I am hearing you saying is, hey, even me as a success story, Harvard graduate,
soon to be Yale Ph.D., I'm drowning to some extent in trauma, and this is by design what happens for undocumented children.
VILLAVICENCIO: I'm actually not drowning anymore, because for migrants it's Russian roulette and because I was lucky. I have wonderful insurance
because of my partner's job and I was able to get wonderful behavioral therapy for my BPD, which is called DBT, and it has changed my life
I'm on pretty expensive psyche meds and I have a great support system around me. I have learned to have boundaries with my parents. I have skills
that I use that keep me healthy. Is -- are those things accessible to most children of immigrants? Will those things be accessible to those -- like
you literally have to be a statistical anomaly and miracle in order to -- like you have to play Russian roulette and you have to win like in order to
beat these things. The odds are against you.
And it's not like the way that the propaganda that we have been fed that like you follow the American dream, and if you are playing the cards right
and work hard at school and if you just -- like that's not what makes you survive and makes you thrive. A lot of it is luck and a lot of it is
SHAHANI: Karla, you used the term dream, and I want to ask you something, throughout your book, "The Undocumented Americans," you continually take
issue with language. You stop and you pause and you interrogate the terms that we now take for granted.
One of those terms, a term that you seem to hate is dreamer. You would be counted as a dreamer, an undocumented student brought here young but you
like that term. How come? Why don't you like dreamer?
VILLAVICENCIO: Look at me. It is not punk rock. It's corny. It also it's propaganda. I would be OK with the term dreamer if it was -- if dream was
capitalized to show that it's an acronym for the Dream Act, but it's not. It's now lower case to show that it's like a descriptor of an effective
experience, which means that you are a person who dreams.
And in literature, a person who has a lifelong dream tends to be a tragic figure because they don't achieve the dream. And that just tends to be the
case. And I'm not that kind of person. I'm a person who has goals. I'm a person who is willing to do anything to get those goals, short of breaking
the law. I mean, other than like, you know, having lived illegally here for, you know, a long time.
But it's not even my -- it wasn't my dream. It was my parents' dream. And my parents' dream was like, let's work here for two years to pay off our
debts. You know, I think it's just such a -- it's -- I -- the concept of the American dream is something that really belongs to the criminal
underclass, you know. It's like it's in the "Godfather" movies, it's Jay Batsby, it's the bootleggers, it's Joe Kennedy deciding that his oldest
most handsome son was going to be president of the United States. That's the American dream.
And Americans need to understand that. Like it doesn't belong to Pollyannas (ph) who decide that -- you know, that like they're from a small town and
they're going to make it big on Broadway, because if that is what they want to do, they're going to have some dark nights doing things they don't want
to do on their way there.
Like the American dream is dark. The American dream is paved like on the road to hell. Is that the idiom?
SHAHANI: I hear what you're saying. And, I mean, I -- what I -- I hear what you are saying and that when I think about my exposure to the concept
of the dream, I do remember growing up and watching "Godfather" movies and sort of having an impression about what it meant to cross into a world
where you didn't quite belong. And that's the cynical and dark underside of what the American is.
At the same time, Karla, when you travel across the country and different kind of recorded trips for your writing, you're, for example in Flint,
Michigan. In Flint, Michigan, you come across undocumented young people, and you start wanting to mentor them.
You hear, oh, you know, they want to bus tables, they want to be, you know, waitresses at the local bar and make tips. And you're like, hey, my dad
makes tips. It's a horrible life, be ambitious. You know, don't you want to college? Don't you want to dream bigger?
So, in that sense I wondered, do you kind of believe in the dream too?
VILLAVICENCIO: I believe in hustling, yes. I mean, I grew up in the hood. You know, you hustle, you make a living, you always come up with different
ideas. I believed that, you know, those girls might not have had the same specific aspirations that I had, but I knew that they were going to be wily
about getting those tips and they were going to be clever. And immigrants have hustle.
And I believe that all people who are underdogs and who have ambition have hustle. And that's from the streets. That's from the marginalized
communities. That's from immigrant communities. That's mob. I respect that.
SHAHANI: So, you're saying it here, and I guess I want you to elaborate further, you write about the undocumented workers who were not the first
responders, but the second responders in the September 11th attacks against New York City, our city. You write about the undocumented immigrants, the
day laborers who started cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy.
Why was it important to you to document that, hey, these people are a huge part of these, you know, historic moments, these crises in contemporary
VILLAVICENCIO: Because their erasure made me sad. I wasn't so much talking about the value of the labor, the undocumented immigrants and the cleanup
of ground zero, but the fact of their exploitation and the fact that this happens after every national crisis, for every national disaster.
It happened after Katrina, it happened after Sandy, it happened after 9/11, it happened -- it's happening during pandemic where we've developed this
beautiful word, it's just a beautiful fascistic word of essential worker where we call them heroes so we don't have to pay them or protect them in
And the organizing around this has always been like, if these people are willing to get risk their very lives with like the (INAUDIBLE) pay, no
health insurance while everyone else is pretty comfy like -- and if they get sick, shouldn't be able to -- should they be able to apply for a green
card in the same way that like some people are able, like domestic violence victims are able to apply for a u-card or people are able to apply for like
a green card with their spouse, and the answer has always been no.
And these are people who have laid their lives on the line to protect American citizens' convenience and comfort. And, you know, like
agricultural workers, like have fed us throughout this pandemic. And so, this is a history that keeps repeating itself over and over and over. And
so, that is why I decided to tell that story.
My father, having worked in the restaurant industry, I have heard stories of people who died, people who were incinerated and nobody would come forth
with their names because they were scared. And their names were not on the memorial. And that frightened me. And so, that's why I wrote about them.
So, like that's -- those are the little details of the stories that I want to get across.
SHAHANI: Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, I want to thank you very much for your time speaking with us today.
VILLAVICENCIO: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.