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CONNECT THE WORLD
A Look Into ISIS's Brutality In Northern Syria; Germany Still Atop Gold Medal Count; Jamaican Bobsled Team Finished 29th; Ethiopian Airlines Co-Pilot Hijacks Own Plane, Seeks Asylum In Geneva
Aired February 17, 2014 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ATIKA SHUBERT, HOST: Tonight, we bring you a view of the war on Syria unlike any you've seen before.
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ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As part of their terror tactics, eyewitnesses were telling us that they would leave some of the bodies of people they'd executed lining the checkpoints.
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SHUBERT: Arwa Damon visits a town, which until recently was a militant Islamist stronghold. She sees the mass graves that illustrate the sheer horror of what is taking place there.
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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What were they saying about the Islamic state, he's asked. Say the truth. Save yourself.
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SHUBERT: Ben Wedeman brings us videos of actual interrogations by these militants along with insight into how they operate. CNN is shining a light on Syria's brutal reality.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.
SHUBERT: Well, tonight we're bringing you two exclusive reports on the brutal reality of the Syrian civil war, a conflict in which the lines between the good, the bad and the ugly are often blurred.
For months, reports have been emerging from northern Syria about atrocities being carried out by a rebel group of al Qaeda inspired extremists. The group is known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and they want to impose a fundamentalist version of Islam on people under its control.
Now it's been battling the Syrian government, but it has also been fighting other rebel groups. The brutality carried out by ISIS roces is so extreme that it has been highly dangerous for a journalist to report from areas under its control. But now as ISIS is being forced out of some towns, CNN's Arwa Damon, her producer Raja Razek (ph) and cameraman Clayton Nagel (ph) travel to the northern Syria town of Addana to witness the devastation that's been left behind.
Now we should warn you, some of the images in this exclusive report are disturbing.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This grave has been dug up before, the bodies unidentified, reburied in the same spot. In video filmed at the time, gruesome images of the corpses of four men.
It's among many mass graves rebel fighters unearthed after they recaptured the town of Addana from radical fighters who once were their allies.
Now, weeks later, a family hopes for closure.
"We a foot and a shoe and a jacket," Ayoush Ali says.
She's with her neighbor Mohammed Ismaili. It's his two younger brothers that are missing, one might be here.
"He just went out to get tomatoes and sugar," Mohammed recalls still disbelieving.
And his wife wanted socks for their kids.
"It's the same jacket," Mohammed says.
The site is next to a former prison run by ISIS, the Islamist State in Iraq and Syria. Its walls lined with bullet holes, some from clashes, others, we are told, from executions.
Masked ISIS fighters, as seen in this rare video posted to YouTube, used fear to rule; anyone caught filming them killed.
This was the main ISIS checkpoint leading into Addana. And as part of their terror tactics, eyewitnesses were telling us that they would leave some of the bodies of people they'd executed lining the checkpoint so that every single car coming through would be forced to slow down and could not ignore that brutal message.
ISIS is a group so merciless that even al Qaeda has reportedly distanced itself from it.
Abu Jamal is telling us that ISIS had beheaded one of the main key rebel commanders here and they came in the early morning when the market was really busy and placed his head on top of the garbage heap that was in that very same spot. And they turned around and told everybody that would be the fate of anyone who dared speak out against them.
Their harsh, intolerable rule caused other Islamist and moderate rebel groups to launch an offensive against them earlier this year.
"So we had to leave the fronts with the regime," Abu Jamal says, "and fall back to fight ISIS to liberate the already liberated areas another time.
But ISIS still looms large in Syria, consolidating its forces and imposing its reign of terror. In this Video filmed later shows Mohammed, he realizes it's not two but three of his brothers that were murdered by ISIS. He thought one of them was in jail.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Addana, Syria.
SHUBERT: And Arwa Damon joins me live now from the Lebanese capital of Beirut. Arwa, first, tell us a little bit about your experience crossing over into Syria. It's still very dangerous there. Give us a brief glimpse of what that was like.
DAMON: It was slightly unnerving just because of the unexpected. We hadn't been back in such a long time. And of course ISIS deliberately targets journalist, foreign and Syrian alike. It's so difficult to be speaking to people about what it is that they've gone through, because it is so unimaginably horrific. But I actually think the hardest part in all of it is when Syrians ask how is it that the world can just sit back and watch what is happening to us, when they question the international community's humanity, that's really difficult Atika.
SHUBERT: You talked to many people there. And I want to get your sense. For example, the FS -- the leader of the Free Syrian Army, the loose affiliation of mostly secular rebel groups has now been sacked because he couldn't have any victories on the ground.
It seems like the rebel groups can't get themselves together. You talked about the hopelessness of the Syrian people there. Does it look like the rebel groups are going to make any sort of headway?
DAMON: Well, that's been one of the biggest challenges for the Syrian rebels and the opposition, the fact that they are so fractured. What we saw happening is that the former leader of the FSA, General Salim Idriss, has been replaced by General Abdullah Bashir. This is part of an effort to reenergize the FSA, because even though the Free Syrian Army at this stage is the largest of all of the rebel groups, it's viewed as being the least effective.
Its new leader reportedly has very close ties to other fronts. And that is part of a hope and an effort to try to consolidate movements on the battleground, to try to really bring everyone together when it comes to the opposition so that they are on a shared military and political track.
But of course until they are able to accomplish that, groups like ISIS are going to be able to very easily take advantage of the situation and the chaos.
SHUBERT: Yeah, it's a very complex situation there. And I can just imagine what it was like for you going across the border.
Well, thank you very much.
We will come back to you, Arwa, after this break. We will take a look at the inner workings of ISIS with exclusive footage of the group's interrogation method in a town formally under their control. A report by our Ben Wedeman coming up next.
And later in the show, how an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot diverted this plane to Switzerland to seek political asylum.
Also ahead, ruling out the red carpet, the BAFTA Awards are handed out in London. And we'll tell you which stars to took home the hardware this year.
SHUBERT: Tonight, we're shedding light on the gruesome reality of the Syrian conflict, a war with multiple front lines and multiple antagonists. CNN has obtained evidence of the brutal tactics employed by ISIS to control much of northern Syria. That, of course, is the group we told you about at the start of this show.
Now, this video recorded by the group itself shows ISIS interrogating prisoners and conducting executions. We should warn you that some of the images are graphic.
Ben Wedeman brings us an exclusive report on what can be learned from these recordings.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The voice off camera asks, "How old are you?"
"I was born in 1980."
"Are you married?"
"Yes," he responds, "I have two children."
"Do you want to see them again?"
"God knows I do. I have nothing to hide."
A man who calls himself Bassem (ph) and a doctor pauses, collecting his thoughts.
"So talk, answer quickly. Are you cooking up lies," shouts the other?
This video is one of eight interrogations obtained by CNN from Syrian opposition activists. The interrogators speak with distinct Iraqi accents and ask questions about goings-on in the town of Al-Bab northeast of Aleppo. From the questions, it is clear the interrogators are not with the regime of President Bashar al Assad but rather with ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria.
It's not clear what happened to these men. But another chilling video we will show you later may be a clue.
Early last year ISIS emerged as a major power in opposition controlled areas of northern Syria. Since then, the ultra extremist group has exposed strict extremist law, held public floggings and executions and most recently has battled other execution groups in fighting that has left well over 2,000 dead. Even al Qaeda's leader has demanded ISIS leave Syria.
Missing in the interrogation is any mention whatsoever of the Assad regime. The only concern is the challenge posed by other opposition factions and the local populace to ISIS.
"Who is erasing the slogans and symbols of ISIS on the walls," demands the interrogator?
"I swear, I don't know, as God is my witness," responds this man, who identifies himself as Hammed (ph).
Another interrogation: "What were they saying about the Islamic State", he's asked. "Say the truth, save yourself."
"I will speak the truth even if I lose my head", responds this man who says he is called Mustafa. All of these clips were found in the residence of this man known by his nom de guerre Abu Ahmed el-Iraqi or "The Iraqi". Activists describe him as an ISIS amir -- a commander and an intelligence officer. They found the abandoned video in January after he fled fighting between ISIS and other factions.
Some of the clips and still shots show a young woman in the company of Abu Ahmed trying her hand at shooting an AK-47 assault rifle.
"Steady," he tells her, "Steady".
ISIS is imposing the strictest possible dress code on women in the areas it controls. Given that her face is uncovered, clearly this was for Abu Ahmed and this unidentified woman, a private moment.
So what happened to the interrogated man? It is not clear from the videos. But one of the last recordings documents in detail ruthless ISIS style justice, execution by flashlight. "Ready," asks the voice off camera. 14 men, some apparently quite young are shot -- one after the other.
The scenes are too graphic for us to show. Some fall into the mass grave already dug. The new boss in this part of Syria -- not unlike the old boss.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Gaziantep, Turkey.
SHUBERT: Truly chilling pictures.
Let's bring back our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon from Beirut.
Now we've heard from the Syrian regime, also from Russia, that they won't even consider any other peace talks on the peace agenda until opposition deals with what it calls the terrorism in its ranks. Is the Syrian regime realistic in this? Is this a reasonable demand?
DAMON: Look, the problem is that resolution to the Syrian conflict is so complicated and multifaceted that to pin all of it -- to pin talks moving forward on whether or not the opposition can get rid of ISIS is really backing the opposition into a corner that they're not going to be able to emerge from very easily.
Let's also remember that from the very beginning, the Syrian government was accusing all opposition members of being foreign-backed terrorists.
The opposition of course itself wants to get rid of ISIS. No one who we're speaking to wants to live in a country where organizations like ISIS can carry out executions with impunity. Nor do they want to live in a country where the government can shove barrel bombs out of helicopters and flatten entire buildings.
So while, yes, of course the opposition will tell you that they have to deal with the threat posed by ISIS at the same time, they also want to see the Assad regime no longer in power, so it really has to be a multi- path, multifaceted approach, Atika.
SHUBERT: Yeah, it's very complex, as so many of these atrocities being committed.
Well, thank you so much. Arwa Damon for us in Beirut.
Well, the crisis in Syria isn't only about competing rebel groups fighting for control, it's also about the millions of people who have been forced to escape the misery of war. People like 4-year-old Marwan (ph), seen here being helped by UNHCR staff to cross the border into Jordan. He'll join the thousands of Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries.
Now I've seen the conditions of the camps Marwan (ph) might end up at firsthand. And now you can also take a virtual journey through such camps and see how life is lived. Just go to our Facebook page where you will find a link to this interactive map of the Zaatari camp in Jordan. It's the world's second largest refugee camp. All of that on Facebook.com/CNNconnect.
And you can also find out how you can help Syrian refugees by heading to our Impact Your World page. And there you can get all the information you need about organizations offering supplies, shelter and medical care for the people displaced by this crisis and the ways you can help.
Well, live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, the famed Jamaican bobsled team took to the track in Sochi today. We'll tell you how they fared and have an update on all the latest sporting action.
Also, UN investigators send a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong un warning that he personally could be held accountable for, quote, "unspeakable atrocities against his own people."
SHUBERT: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Welcome back.
Now for a look at the other top stories we're following here on CNN, Swiss police are trying to unscramble a bizarre hijacking attempt. An Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot took over his own plane. Now he landed where he wanted, but not how he wanted. Frederik Pleitgen explains.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was an ordeal for the passengers on board the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 676, but finally all were able to disembark safely. After the co-pilot who had hijacked the aircraft landed in Geneva and got out through a cockpit window.
At 6:02 a.m. this plane landed quite safely at landing strip number five, this police official says. At 6:10, the co-pilot got out of the cockpit through a rope and announced he himself was the pirate and explained to have prepared his act before the flight.
Geneva Airport was shut down for several hours before flights resumed. Swiss authorities say the co-pilot waited for the captain to go to the restroom in flight then locked himself into the cockpit and notified air traffic controllers that the plane was hijacked.
He demanded asylum in Switzerland. This is his communication with Swiss Air Traffic Control before landing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have to give us lastly information about the asylum (inaudible) because everything is not in English portion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Yes, I know. Sorry, but we are still waiting for the response. We are trying our best to get you the response, sir.
PLEITGEN: The plane's original destination was Rome, but it was forced to land in Geneva by two Euro fighter jets like this model.
The co-pilot who was the pirate was born in 1983. He's of Ethiopian origin and his act has been motivated by the fact that he feels threatened in his country and wants to make an asylum claim in Switzerland, the Geneva police official later said.
It's not the first time an Ethiopian Airlines jet liner has been hijacked. In 1996, a plane from the same airline crashed into the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel when three hijackers tried to divert the flight to Australia. 50 passengers survived, but 125 on board were killed.
Luckily, the jet that was diverted on Monday made a safe landing. Authorities say the passengers were never in danger. The co-pilot is in custody. Instead of getting asylum, he might go to jail. Hijacking can bring prison terms of up to 20 years in Switzerland.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.
SHUBERT: Now to South Africa where a total of 24 miners had been freed after being trapped in an illegal gold mine since Saturday, but rescuers say a handful of others are still underground refusing to come out because they fear they will be arrested. The men are believed to have been trapped after digging into the abandoned gold mine just outside of Johannesburg.
The Venezuelan government has issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Government officials blame the popular politician for the deadly street protest that left three people dead in the past week. In a YouTube video posted from an undisclosed location, Lopez calls for new protest on Tuesday. That's when he says he plans to appear at Venezuela's justice ministry.
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LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): I will be there showing my face. I have nothing to fear. I have committed no crime. I have been a Venezuelan who is committed to our country, to our people, the constitution and our future. If there is any illegal decision to jail me, then I will accept that decision and that infamous persecution by the state.
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SHUBERT: Well, the Jamaican bobsled team's Olympic dream has slid to an end in Sochi. Despite capturing huge support from the crowd, they finished 29th out of 30 teams in the two-man bobsled competition. Now the Jamaicans vowed to be back for the 2018 Winter Games. Meanwhile, the Russia team captured their first Olympic bobsled gold with a commanding win.
Well, for more on today's Olympic action, I'm joined from Sochi by CNN's Ian Lee.
Well, a ton of support from the crowd for the Jamaican bobsled team, but they didn't quite make it to their final. Why has this team managed to capture so many hearts even if they didn't get any medals?
IAN LEE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Atika, the whole world was really rooting for them. And it didn't matter your nationality. I think because they are such an underdog. And everyone loves a good underdog story, especially everyone remembers the Jamaican bobsled team of decades past. And really wanted to see this one do well.
Unfortunately, like you said, they came in 29th, second to last. And for a team to move on to the final run, the fourth run, they had to be in the top 20. They weren't able to pull it off.
But, they will be back. And we'll be watching for them -- Atika.
SHUBERT: Well, what is the other sporting action we've seen? Who has been making the medals table today?
LEE: Well, the medal table has been basically dominated by Germany. They have eight gold medals. Second has been jockeying back and forth between four countries that all have five gold medals. That includes the United States, Russia, Netherlands and Norway. And they always -- you'll be wait and you'll see one of the countries get a gold and move up and then it quickly is overtaken by another one.
But, if you're one of those people who go with the total medal count, then we're looking at the Russia and the United States both tied at 18 -- Atika.
SHUBERT: Well, I've got to say I was rooting for the underdog as well. So thanks for keeping on top of both of those stories for us today.
Ian Lee for us at Sochi for the Winter Olympics.
Well, you can keep tabs on all the latest news from Sochi with CNN's blog, aiming for gold. Our crews on the ground bring you the day's top results behind the scenes photographs and stories on the lighter side of the Sochi games. Follow the links to our blog from our home page at CNN.com/international.
Well, the world news headlines just ahead. Plus, a call for action against North Korea. UN investigators say no other country in the world today commits such widespread systemic crimes and atrocities against its own people.
Plus, diversity was on display at last night's BAFTA awards, but do filmmakers still discriminate when it comes to casting? We'll speak to an industry insider coming up.
SHUBERT: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, the top stories this hour. North Korea is rejecting a blistering UN report that accuses it of systemic, widespread atrocities against its own people. A UN commission says North Korean leaders, possibly including Kim Jong-un should face justice at the International Criminal Court.
An Ethiopian Airlines copilot is in custody after hijacking his own aircraft. He locked the pilot out of the flight deck and diverted the flight from Rome to Geneva and reportedly asked for political asylum, but he now faces possible hijacking charges.
Italy's prime minister-designate is in talks to form a new government. Matteo Renzi has already outlined areas of major reform he wants to tackle.
A shake-up at the top of an opposition fighting group in Syria. The Free Syrian Army has sacked military chief Salim Idris. He's being replaced with a more experienced field commander. A spokesman for the FSA cited the, quote, "ineffectiveness of the command" in the last few months.
Torture, enslavement, political prison camps, and public executions. A new UN report says these are just some of the unspeakable atrocities that North Korea is committing against its own people.
A special commission released the findings of its 11-month inquiry today, and it detained a litany of systemic and widespread abuses, recommending that North Korean leaders, possibly including Kim Jong-un himself, face international prosecution. The commission head says the suffering in North Korea has gone on long enough, and the time to act is now.
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MICHAEL KIRBY, CHAIRMAN, UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION: At the end of the second World War, so many people said if only we had known. If only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces. If only we had known that.
Well now, the international community does know. The international community will know. There will be no excusing a failure of action because we didn't know.
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SHUBERT: North Korea did not cooperate in the investigation, so much of the evidence came from satellite imagery and testimony from hundreds of victims and witnesses. CNN's Paula Hancocks heard some of these horrific accounts firsthand when she spoke with a defector in Seoul.
(CHILDREN SINGING IN KOREAN)
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kwon Young Hee's students sing a famous Korean folksong, often considered the unofficial anthem of Korea. The students, who we cannot identify, have all escaped from North Korea. Many had to leave relatives behind.
As did Kwon. She tells us she defected back in 2001 after being questioned and physically beaten after one of her brothers defected.
"They said I'm from a traitor's family," she tells me. "Then they beat me over the head and legs with a wooden bat. I still have pains in my head and had to have surgery on my leg four years go."
Kwon believes her family was targeted because her parents were originally from the South. She says another of her brothers was starved and beaten by the regime.
"They tied him to a truck," she says, "and dragged him for 45 kilometers. When he fell down, they kept on driving. My friends told me they had never seen anything so terrible."
Kwon was just one of hundreds of North Koreans who testified last year to the United Nations' commission of inquiry. Some were interviewed in private for fear of reprisals. A three-person commission heard days of emotional testimony in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington. Accounts of torture, executions, starvation, all claiming massive human rights abuses by North Korea.
But Pyongyang refused to participate in the year-long commission, denying the UN access to the country.
HANCOCKS (on camera): That's just one of the reasons Kwon believes that this report will change nothing in North Korea. She says public executions, some of which she personally witnessed, will continue. And the families of those who do manage to escape the country will be punished.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
SHUBERT: Well, the human rights group Amnesty International has provided evidence to the UN on the situation in North Korea. It's collected the stories of four people who escaped the country after horrendous experiences, and who've now testified before the inquiry.
Amnesty is calling these testimonies "The Voices from the Camps," and we must warn you that they contain some graphic detail, which you may find disturbing.
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JOO-IL KIM, FORMER MILITARY CAPTAIN (through translator): The first public execution I had to witness happened to by my classmate's brother-in- law. The first bullet hits the head strap, and the brain and blood splatters. People scream in horror at this sight.
TEXT: Jihyan Park fled North Korea. She was detained after being arrested in China and sent to a labor camp.
JIHYAN PARK, FLED NORTH KOREA (through translator): People got so hungry they would eat anything, from dog food and cattle feed left out at other people's houses and beans left on the ground. I have heard that some people ate beans and maize kernels stuck in animal dung.
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SHUBERT: We're joined now by senior Amnesty International official. T. Kumar is the director of international advocacy in the United States. Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Kumar. Tell us a little bit more about these testimonies and how much of an impact is it going to have to see -- for people to actually hear directly from these defectors?
T. KUMAR, INTERNATIONAL ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA: The best way to bring human rights abuses to the international community is victims themselves come out and give their own experience what they have undergone and what suffering they have gone.
So the best thing that has happened is the victims themselves are testifying what they have undergone. So, this is the best way of prosecuting and bringing to justice the leaders of North Korea.
SHUBERT: You mention bring to justice. Now, in this UN report, it warns, basically, the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, that he could face criminal prosecution at the International Criminal Court. But how realistic is that? Are we actually going to see concrete action as a result of this new UN report?
KUMAR: The new UN report is one of the steps that's moving closely to bring North Korean leader to justice and other senior military and political officials to justice. Once this report has been tabled before the Human Rights Council, they are going to take it up with the Security Council, which in turn should act. That's what the test we are waiting.
It's possible, we have seen, Sudan president, while he was a sitting president, a commission of inquiry pretty much indicted him, and the International Criminal Court issued a summons. That rattled him and changed things on the ground.
So these are leaders who will be nervous that they are going to be cornered and one day -- one day -- it could be tomorrow, it could be four years from tomorrow -- that they may be held accountable. So, they may change and they may treat their people better.
SHUBERT: Having said that, this is a country that doesn't seem to respond very well to pressure, especially when pushed into a corner, simply seems to get more aggressive. What do you think is going to be the outcome of this report? What do you hope for in the future?
KUMAR: The outcome of this report is now the world at large has come to know from the UN -- not from human rights groups, like Amnesty International, from the UN itself endorsing and saying how horrible the situation is there.
What we expect and the international community expects is to make sure the leaders of North Korea are being held accountable for these abuses and stop these abuses right away. These are the two things we expect and we hope. And we are hopeful that the possibility is there.
SHUBERT: Now, we've heard about these kinds of atrocities before in North Korea, but now, with a relatively new leader like Kim Jong-un, are things getting worse?
KUMAR: I will not say it's getting worse. It's the same, because there is no way the situation can go worse in North Korea. It has reached the rock bottom. We have seen public executions, using food in a selective manner against political opponents, where people have died because of starvation.
And people were -- when they were expelled from China and the flee to China out of persecution, they were imprisoned and tortured and sometimes executed. So, things have gone bad, and still it's bad. They hope this particular report will make a difference.
SHUBERT: Well, let's certainly hope so. Thank you very much for joining us, Kumar. International advocacy director for Amnesty International.
Well, live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still ahead, move over prima ballerinas. Meet the man who's determined to bring male dancers into the spotlight.
SHUBERT: The ballet world is one of both talent and tradition, a world where women have often occupied the spotlight. But now, a new production is challenging ballet's conventional gender roles and allowing men to take center stage. Nick Glass has more.
NICK GLASS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Think of ballet, and you think of pointed shoes, tutus, and pirouettes. But here at the London Coliseum, that stereotype is being challenged. Tonight, it's all about the boys.
IVAN PUTROV, PRODUCER, MEN IN MOTION: My attempt is to show a century of male dance in a hundred minutes. Great, important developments have happened since the beginning of the 20th century. Just as much as you hear about the feminine movement and how a woman gained the right to vote and, well, the man gained the right of center stage.
GLASS: The Ukrainian dancer Ivan Putrov is the man behind Men in Motion, a production featuring 15 short dance performed by some of the biggest male stars in ballet.
Ivan Putrov spent 12 years dancing the classical repertoire as a principal at London's Royal Ballet, where the women were the crown jewels and the men were there to show them off. Then, he discovered a century-old Russian ballet with choreography by Mikhail Fokin, "Le Spectre de la Rose," which transformed the potential of male dancing and made a legend out of Vaslav Nijinksy.
PUTROV: Nijinksy jumped through the window in "Le Spectre de la Rose" and took front stage for Men and Motion. It was custom that a ballerina takes the bow first, and then the man. Well, this ballet was truly man's ballet, and the man was the first to take a bow. And one of the greatest ballerinas of this time, Tamara Karsavina, was in the shadow of Vaslav Nijinksy.
GLASS: Nijinksy combined masculine power in his legs with feminine delicacy in his arms. He wore a tight costume of silk rose petals. It was the beginning of an evolution in male dance, where androgyny became acceptable.
PUTROV: Before it was clear separation, that it was either a girl, very feminine and a boy, very masculine. I feel that the vocabulary of male dancer has extended in so many ways. He could be -- a man could be androgynous, feminine. And it's so important to have new creations and give a chance for this to happen.
GLASS: The challenging of traditional sexual stereotypes is reflected in contemporary dance. It's no longer a world of strong, protective men and tender, subservient women. Here, men are allowed greater expression, more emotion.
PUTROV: I'm interested in the delicacy of the men, because I think that's what you don't normally see in men. My best memories from my father is when he cries. So of course, that's why I love when I can see men communicating that on stage. I think that's very powerful, even more than, perhaps, when I see them jump and being strong physically.
GLASS: Dance, like dancers, never stands still. Ivan is keen to continue to explore boundaries. What may be possible, acceptable in male dance in the future. Tonight, the statement has been made: the men are taking center stage. There's only one movement left to make, and that is one that is understood in every theater in the world.
SHUBERT: Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, the triumphs, the tears, and the tales from the red carpet. We bring you a roundup of all the action at last night's BAFTA Awards.
SHUBERT: Welcome back, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Atika Shubert. Now, the biggest names in film from both sides of the Atlantic gathered in London for last night's BAFTA Awards. Historical drama "12 Years a Slave" and space adventure "Gravity" took top honors. CNN's Becky Anderson was front and center for all the glitz and glamour.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brad and Angelina. Tom Hanks. Christian Bale. Hollywood royalty, and even a touch of the real thing.
ANDERSON (on camera): Well, it has been a dazzling night here at the 66th BAFTAs at the Royal Opera House in London, the red carpet awash with stars.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Leonardo DiCaprio stole the pre-show, wooing an ecstatic crowd.
CROWD (chanting): Leo! Leo! Leo!
ANDERSON: But when the awards were announced --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chiwetel Ejiofor.
ANDERSON: -- it was British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor who nudged DiCaprio for a Best Actor award for Solomon Northup in "12 Years a Slave."
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, WINNER, BEST ACTOR: And Steve McQueen. Thank you.
EJIOFOR: Thank you, sir. Thank you for your work, for your artistry, for your passion in this project. You really just brought us all through it.
ANDERSON: And it wasn't just his performance that impressed.
DAVID O. RUSSELL, DIRECTOR, "AMERICAN HUSTLE": I saw the guy from "12 Years a Slave," and I've got to get his tailor. He said it was a British tailor.
ANDERSON (on camera): Chiwetel.
RUSSELL: Oh, my God!
ANDERSON: Yes, there --
RUSSEL: That guy, I look like his gardener.
ANDERSON (voice-over): The movie about slavery in America also won the coveted Best Film BAFTA.
STEVE MCQUEEN, DIRECTOR, "12 YEARS A SLAVE": There are 21 million people in slavery as we sit here, 21 million people. I just hope that 150 years from now, our ambivalence will not allow another filmmaker to make this film. Thank you so much.
ANDERSON: But it was Alfonso Cuaron who was named Best Director for his 3D thriller "Gravity." It was a great night for Somali-born newcomer Barkhad Abdi, taking the Best Supporting Actor for what was the sinister and moving performance alongside Tom Hanks in "Captain Phillips."
BARKHAD ABDI, WINNER, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: It was really an honor working with him. He's a really good -- very good man.
ANDERSON (on camera): What happens next to you?
ABDI: I look for other parts and continue acting.
ANDERSON: I don't think you're going to be -- need to look for parts. I think the parts are going to come to you.
ANDERSON (voice-over): If there was one surprise in London, it was that Lupita Nyong'o failed to get the nod for either Rising Star or Best Supporting Actress. But the young star surely stole the show for style.
LUPITA NYONG'O, ACTRESS: It's definitely the most dressed-up I've every gotten.
ANDERSON: And this could still be her year, with the nomination for an Oscar up her sleeve, she'll do the walk of fame once again next month at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Becky Anderson, CNN, London.
SHUBERT: Well, this year's crop of BAFTA-nominated films included lots of heavy-hitting roles for black actors, from "12 Years a Slave" to "Captain Phillips." But do these kinds of roles really represent diversity in film, or are black actors still struggling to find mainstream success?
Well, to discuss this issue, I'm joined now by John Akomfrah. He's a former governor of the British Film Institute and a director as well. So, let me first get your reaction to these awards last night at the BAFTAs. Great wins for "12 Years a Slave" and "Captain Phillips." How significant is it?
JOHN AKOMFRAH, FORMER GOVERNOR, BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE: Fantastic. I mean, "12 Years a Slave" I have a particular relation with, because both Steve and Chiwe are old friends, so I was especially happy to see them win something. It's significant. It will -- it's a game-changer in lots of very small but also quite significant ways, I think.
SHUBERT: I think -- what interested me here was not just the fact that we've seen black actors featured, but to see a black director being given this award --
SHUBERT: And obviously, if he wins the Oscar, that would be an historic moment. Do you think we are starting to see these kinds of changes and sort of a shift in view taking place?
AKOMFRAH: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think the -- Steve winning is both confirmation of a trend that we've seen taking place anyway. And by that I mean, for instance, 12 years ago, if you had a film called "12 Years a Slave," the idea would be that it would go to a white director because it's big.
AKOMFRAH: And so it's appropriate that it should go to a white director. So the fact that a major diaspora -- African diaspora story is done by a black director of black British heritage and descent is, I think, significant, yes. Very, very much so.
SHUBERT: But is it enough? I mean, it sounds like there's still a long way to go. What would you like to see that would -- that makes you say, this is a good measuring stick to say yes, we have achieved diverse -- true diversity in film?
AKOMFRAH: Well, if this turned out not to be a one-off, that would be good. If Steve's example became a trend. Sort of there are more people like Steve.
If a range of black acting talent continues to be both affirmed and endorsed by both BAFTA and the Academy, that would -- the American Academy, that would be a good thing. But these things are in a balance. We don't know how they're going to go.
SHUBERT: As a director, you've worked with lots of actors --
AKOMFRAH: I have.
SHUBERT: -- and you've seen the development of so much young black talent, what kind of advice do you give them in terms of breaking in and really making an impact?
AKOMFRAH: Well, now I tend to say go to America.
SHUBERT: Well, other than going to Hollywood?
AKOMFRAH: No, other than that -- other than that, I think getting people to understand that this is a craft, that you have to practice it, and that the more you work at it the better you get. That you start with pretty small roles. Chiwe Ejiofor has been at this --
AKOMFRAH: -- for a long time.
SHUBERT: Very long time.
AKOMFRAH: Yes. He didn't just walk into that. So, when people look to him for examples, they should look to both. They should look to the practice of craft over a long period of time, as well as the ambitions to do big things.
SHUBERT: You mentioned going to America, and I was just thinking, I'm a big fan of "The Wire," for example, and I had no idea that Idris Elba was a black British actor --
SHUBERT: -- when I watched that. Are there more opportunities in sort of the American film landscape for black actors?
AKOMFRAH: Yes. That's to do with diversity. There's been an unspoken rule in American drama in particular that the cast should be representative of the culture. So, it's not entirely coincidence that when you watch an American drama, you see so many black actors.
And of course, with the range of programs being made, if you're a black British actor with a nominal command of the American accent, it's a good place to go. So there are a hell of a lot. Idris is just the tip of the iceberg.
SHUBERT: Sure. Sure.
AKOMFRAH: A lot of actors from here over there now in --
SHUBERT: What kind of a role would you like to see that would challenge viewers' perception, in terms of -- they might not say, well, that's not a stereotypical role that I would expect to see a black actor, but to see it would change their mind?
AKOMFRAH: Well, I think one of the things all my actor friends keep asking for are roles that challenge your perceptions of race, especially roles that are not entirely negative -- positive, rather. Black serial killers.
AKOMFRAH: I think there are lot of black actors looking to play roles like that.
AKOMFRAH: Roles that --
SHUBERT: A meaty role, something that gives you a lot of character depth.
AKOMFRAH: Yes, what they call a meaty role --
AKOMFRAH: -- which normally confounds your sense of the appropriate image of a black person. So that would be good. It'd be good to see more of that.
SHUBERT: Let me quickly ask you, the Oscars, what are you looking forward to there? What are you hoping to see?
AKOMFRAH: I'm hoping the same drama of the BAFTAs will roll out there. I'm -- we've got very big hopes for "12 Years."
AKOMFRAH: And I think it will do well.
SHUBERT: A historic win, hopefully.
SHUBERT: Well, thank you very much --
AKOMFRAH: Thank you.
SHUBERT: -- John Akomfrah for us. Thank you very much. Well, the star of last night's BAFTAs was "12 Years a Slave," and the film's director, Steve McQueen. He's also nominated for Best Director at the year's Academy Awards. McQueen spoke to CNN's Christiane Amanpour last week about the reception the film has received.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MCQUEEN, DIRECTOR, "12 YEARS A SLAVE": What's been interesting for me about this film is the amount of people who have wanted to see this movie. We've made over $100 million on this picture so far. So it just tells you that people are interested in stories, interested in challenging stories, and wanting to sort of somehow reflect on that past more than they ever have before. So, it's been -- it's kind of been kind of a beautiful experience, really.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: As we mentioned, if McQueen does win the coveted Oscar next month, he will make history as the first black director ever to win the Best Director Academy Award. Hollywood's big night is coming up on March 2nd, and CNN will, of course, bring you full coverage.
In fact, you can follow all of this season's awards and nominations right now at cnn.com/awards. Use our movie award tracker to see how your favorite film has fared at the box office and in critics' reviews. That's at cnn.com/awards.
Well, what were your favorite moments from last night's BAFTAs? Which films are you hoping will win at next month's Academy Awards? The team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you, facebook.com/CNNconnect, have your say. And you can tweet me @AtikaCNN. Connect your thoughts, please, at CNNconnect.
I'm Atika Shubert, and that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks very much for watching.