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Spike Lee Nominated for Best Director and Best Picture For "BlacKkKlansman"; Interview with Director, Spike Lee; Scotland Caught Up on Brexit Crisis Against its Will; Interview with Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon; Brexit and its Ramifications for Scotland; President Macron and the MeToo Movement. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 8, 2019 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Yes, it is Spike Lee. Finally, the celebrated director is nominated for Best Director and Best Picture for "BlacKkKlansman". He'll join me on set.
Plus, an exciting new literary voice, the Moroccan French novelist, Leila Slimani, on her deep explorations of modern womanhood.
And the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on how her country has been betrayed by Brexit and why she says Scotland will go for a second
referendum on their own independence.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Spike Lee is excited about the Oscars. Now, you might not think that's news but only three years ago he had joined Jada Pinkett Smith in
boycotting the ceremony, protesting the now famous #OscarsSoWhite. Now, they are not so white and Spike Lee will be there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR, "BLACKKKLANSMAN": Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That is Spike and family celebrating as they watch the nominations three weeks ago. He got six nods for his "BlacKkKlansman"
including his first for Best Director and Best Picture. The movie "Do the Right Thing" widely considered Lee's most important work was not nominated
in either category.
Lee's films have always been provocative especially, of course, on the issue of race. And it's very relevant this week as Virginia's top three
officials are embroiled in a mind-boggling scandal, two of them over the use of blackface. Lee knows the issue well because his 2000 satire,
Bamboozled", centered around a T.V. show with actors wearing blackface. So, it is great to have Spike Lee here in the studio to talk about
diversity in Hollywood and the racism that still plagues America.
Spike Lee, welcome to the program.
SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR, "BLACKKKLANSMAN": It's such a pleasure. In person this time.
AMANPOUR: In person. I feel your joy.
LEE: Not York to London but across --
AMANPOUR: London to London.
LEE: -- your table.
AMANPOUR: And listen, there's a significant change since we last talked, which wasn't so long ago. But now, you have been nominated for an Oscar,
that was your reaction. What happened to the cool Spike Lee?
LEE: Well, I would like to state, if I may, that was a combination of six -- my exuberance of the six and final nomination was Best Picture. So, it
was building up, 1,2,3,4,5 and what you see, that was number 6 and it was crazy.
AMANPOUR: So, you're absolutely thrilled?
LEE: Yes, I am.
AMANPOUR: I think that's great.
LEE: But also, I'm thrilled for my longtime editor, Barry Brown, who never got nominated but also my longtime music composer, Terence Blanchard
(INAUDIBLE) Adam Driver never nominated for four --
AMANPOUR: Your star in this film. Yes.
LEE: Yes. So, we -- it was the community thrill.
AMANPOUR: It's taken a long time, Spike Lee.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you've been doing these phenomenal movies for --
LEE: Back in the day.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, from the late 80s and you've never been nominated for Best Director.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's taken a while. Do you feel great or do you feel sort of it's about time?
LEE: Well, I think and I feel great, I also feel about time. I want to state it is April Rains Campaign #OscarSoWhite combined with Cheryl Boone
Isaacs, two African-American women. Cheryl Boone Isaacs was a president of the County Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
So, behind #OscarSoWhite, she went to (INAUDIBLE) and said, "Look, this is bad luck. We have to diversify the voting membership." So, all -- every
person of color whose got a nomination or an Oscar can thank the both of them because that changed everything.
AMANPOUR: And it is remarkable, because when that hash tag campaign started, #OscarSoWhite, I mean, you obviously didn't go that year, you went
to Nix game.
LEE: I went to the Nix game.
AMANPOUR: Yes. You went to the Nix game. This year, you will be going?
LEE: Oh, yeah.
AMANPOUR: Let's just get that straight.
AMANPOUR: And so, you --
LEE: With family.
AMANPOUR: Which is great.
AMANPOUR: Cheryl Boone Isaacs, you do credit her then and this campaign with actually moving the ball. This isn't just cosmetic.
LEE: Hollywood traditionally can stem themselves (ph) very liberal. And that hash tag, that was not good publicity, it's good for the academy, it
was not a good look. And also, they knew it was the right thing to do. They had to open up the voting membership. It had to be more diverse. It
had look like the rest of America.
AMANPOUR: And, again, there are a lot -- there is a lot of diversity. I mean, you've got "If Beale Street Could Talk" --
AMANPOUR: -- you "Black Panther."
LEE: $1.3 billion.
AMANPOUR: It's just remarkable, all this talent that suddenly getting recognized.
AMANPOUR: Is it real?
LEE: Here's the thing though. Here's the tricky thing. In order for this continue and to not be a trend, diversity has to go to (INAUDIBLE) of, you
know what I'm talking about, the gatekeepers. Because they are people at the side, what we're making and what we're not making.
AMANPOUR: So, you mean, the heads of studios?
LEE: Yes, yes. They decide every quarter, quarterly meetings, what we're making and what we're not. And unless we're in the room, it's going to be
iffy, you know. So, we have -- I mean, one of my favorite movies of all time was "Hamilton" and the "Hamilton" song, you know, sometime the guy be
the room to make it happen. If you're not in a room, they were like --
AMANPOUR: Well, look, you've not only been in the room but you have been leading the discussion around the conference table in the room and your
films have been, not just groundbreaking, but they've been way ahead of their time. I mean, even if you go back to do the right thing and others,
you know, you had so --
LEE: And now, people are looking at "Bamboozled" now because what's happening --
AMANPOUR: Well --
LEE: -- what's happening --
AMANPOUR: I was just going to get there. You beat me to it.
LEE: Oh, I'm sorry. I was trying -- I should not be doing it. It's all love, it's all love.
AMANPOUR: OK. No. I'm going to get to "Bamboozled." But let me just first ask you about "BlacKkKlansman" because this is the film that's being
recognized in this way. It's a crazy proposition, right. I mean, it -- you couldn't make this stuff up but it's true.
AMANPOUR: So, just quickly, the precis.
LEE: Jordan Peele, my brother, of get out fame, called me up out the blue to Spike -- you know, he wanted me to consider doing a film. So, he gave
me a six-word pitch, Black man infiltrates Ku Klux Klan, six words. That's one of the greatest six-word pitches of all time.
AMANPOUR: And you said, "You're kidding"?
LEE: Yes. I said, "Is this a David Chapelle skit?" And he said, "No. His name is Ron Stallworth and this is a true story, he wrote a book, we
have a script. Would you be interested?" I said yes.
AMANPOUR: It is -- it's an amazing story and it's so funny but it's so utterly serious.
AMANPOUR: And you, of course, end it with a utterly serious message --
AMANPOUR: -- which is what happened Charlottesville.
AMANPOUR: So, every film that you make, in fact, has a deep social message.
LEE: I mean --
AMANPOUR: Am I getting too deep here?
LEE: Yes. There's a very funny commercial a long time ago, "Hurts" (ph) and the thing was not exactly.
AMANPOUR: But "Bamboozled" does. I mean, here you are talking "Bamboozled." Let's just -- you know, let's just talk about what it is.
AMANPOUR: There are these scandals about blackface the use there of amongst the top echelon of leaders in Virginia, including the governor and
the attorney general.
LEE: Could be ironic that Virginia at one time was the cradle of civilization? Could it be ironic that 400 years ago the first place was
brought to Jamestown, Virginia, 1619? 400 years ago. So, the irony is perplex.
AMANPOUR: I would like to play a little bit of the news conference that the governor gave when he basically said it wasn't him in blackface in the
yearbook that started the situation but then he did admit to dressing up when he wanted to imitate Michael Jackson for a competition, I believe.
Here's the clip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH NORTHAM, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: I had the shoes, I had a glove and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under my -- or on my cheek.
And the reason I used a very little bit is because I don't know if anybody's ever tried that but you cannot get shoe polish off. But it was a
dance contest. I had always liked Michael Jackson. I actually won the contest because I had learned how to do the moonwalk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still able to moonwalk?
NORTHAM: My wife says in appropriate circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Inappropriate circumstances.
LEE: He was going to do it. He was going to the moonwalk. Thank God his wife -- he heard -- I'm telling you, he heard (INAUDIBLE).
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's just -- again, you've reflected on the State of Virginia and history. But what about your film? I mean, you did a film
about this --
AMANPOUR: -- all those years ago.
LEE: It came out in 2000.
AMANPOUR: 2000, right.
AMANPOUR: And it's -- I mean, is anybody listening? How does this stuff happen today?
LEE: Because it never went away, it never went away. Racism, racist imagery, all the stuff is engrained in the DNA of the United States of
America. The very flag that Betsy Ross sewed. That flag has -- you know, it's sad because you think -- we all think that we're moving forward.
Here's the thing though, if I may say this very quickly, I never believed in a post racial society. When my brother put his hand in Abraham
Lincoln's bible and took that oath, there was like -- there's (INAUDIBLE) of magical mystical moment, hokus pokus, boom, racism gone. I did drink
AMANPOUR: You're talking about your brother, Barack Obama?
LEE: Yes. I did not drink the Kool-Aid like all of a sudden, racism would either evaporate, disappear and we'll all be holding hands and singing.
AMANPOUR: I mean, (INAUDIBLE) that this week as well there's a related crisis with a famous Hollywood actor, Liam Neeson, who talked about a
friend of his --
LEE: That's a long whistle.
AMANPOUR: -- who had been raped and that he had asked her what color and she had said Black and he had said, "Well, I'm going to go and, you know,
beat the bejesus out of him." And then he's been on the apology tour. I would like to just play this clip and get your take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIAM NEESON, ACTOR: I'm not racist. This was nearly 40 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you have had the same reaction if your friend had said it was a White man? Would you wanted to go out to kill?
NEESON: Oh, definitely. She just said an Irish or a Scott or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I would -- I know I would have had the same effect. I was
trying to show honor to my -- stand up for my dear friend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Well, it's a very unfortunate situation. But I'll have to say this, I really (INAUDIBLE) overall, but let me say this, there's a history of
White women saying a Black man, a Black savage raped her. It wasn't just Emmett Till. There's a history of White women, in this country, saying
that Ku Klux Klan was formed to save White southern womanhood.
So, I think we have to take that context too. There's a history behind us and a whole lot of people, Black men, have been murdered, (INAUDIBLE),
spent time in jail because a White woman accused him of raping her. And I think -- and I hope that Liam would known about that history.
AMANPOUR: Would you seek to guide him? He's obviously in your profession.
LEE: No. He's -- he has a whole bunch of publicists around him. And I would like to say this, it's painful to see because I see what he's going
through but what have happened if he acted that out? Would that person end up in the hospital? Would that person been dead? Would any charge be
brought against him? So, that's something to think about too.
And then, I don't want to stay in Liam but, for me, I wonder where that came from, the way he says he's not a racist but, in a moment, your friend
(INAUDIBLE) you know, to do damage, injure the first Black man you see, where's that come from? Where does that come from?
AMANPOUR: Have you thought about what you're going to say on stage?
LEE: Not yet.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I don't want to jinx anything here.
LEE: Oh, yes, yes. That's the unjinx.
AMANPOUR: But it's a powerful platform.
LEE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And several people have told me, have told my coattails, they said, "Spike, if things do work out with the amount of
time, I heard we -- we already told, you 90 seconds to make that count because I will a platform and people will be watching around the world."
AMANPOUR: Talking about watching around the world, people around the world have watched your films, as I say, since you first started.
LEE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: "Do the right thing," you said and you continue to say is still relevant today, the issues that you highlighted and zoomed in on there --
LEE: That's great.
AMANPOUR: -- you know --
LEE: This coming June 30th --
LEE: -- will be 30 years.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. Gentrification of minority neighborhoods, police violence, particularly to the character radio.
LEE: Global warming. We're talking about global warming.
AMANPOUR: Which is incredible when I even think about that.
LEE: I wrote that in 1988, it was shot in '89.
AMANPOUR: It's remarkable.
LEE: You know what, my friends call me a Negrodomus.
AMANPOUR: Can I just play a clip?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL NUNN, ACTOR: Let me tell you the story of right hand and left hand. The tale of good and evil. Hate, it was with this hand that (INAUDIBLE).
Love, these five fingers that go straight to the soul of man, the right hand, the hand of love. The story of life is this. Static. One hand is
always fighting the other hand. Your left hand is kicking (INAUDIBLE).
I mean, it looks like the right love is finished. But hold on, stop the press, the right hand is coming back. Yes. He got the left hand on the
ropes now. That's right. Yes. Boom. It's a devastating right and (INAUDIBLE). Damn. Left hand hate (INAUDIBLE) by love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Love won 30 years ago in "Do the Right Thing."
LEE: Well, just -- I'm a very sad now because that's a dear friend of mine, Bill Nunn, whose no longer with us. And I didn't write that.
What you saw is from a scene called "Nigel Hunter" director by Charles Laughton and the Robert Mitchum had love and hate tattooed on his fingers.
So, I saw that in film school. And when I graduated film school made a big, big impression on me.
So, at the time, the (INAUDIBLE) well, these love rings, I say, let me take them from "Nigel Hunter" but in here, we made a few different tweaks at
length was written -- that was written by James Agee, I cannot take credit for that.
AMANPOUR: But that is remarkable as well. I hadn't realized that.
LEE: "Nigel Hunter".
AMANPOUR: In the old, old film --
LEE: Yes. Black and white.
AMANPOUR: But then it was relevant there and it's relevant today.
AMANPOUR: So, does love have a chance still of winning?
LEE: I will always believe that. But the president States of America, on his comments about Charlottesville, the president is supposed to be --
supposedly the leader of the free world, the United States of American, supposedly the cradle of democracy.
The president, I don't call him by his name, had a chance to tell Americans but also the world that (INAUDIBLE) America (INAUDIBLE) about love. He had
the opportunity commenting on Charlottesville to denounce the clan, to denounce the right, to denounce the Neo-Nazis, he chose not to.
And I find it very strange that the State of the Union speech, he had several people, Holocaust survivors, people -- individuals who landed in
Normandy to fight against Nazis. Nazis. Charlottesville, they have swastikas, they were doing a (INAUDIBLE), they were saying Jews blood soil,
which is a Nazi slogan. He did not -- there was a disconnect with the speech, the State of the Union speech, and what he said at the
Charlottesville, according to -- I mean, that's my opinion.
AMANPOUR: He also had at the State of the Union the lady who he had released from jail, the African-American woman. What did that say to you?
LEE: That does not, to me, dismiss all the stuff -- I mean, I was like that was politics. And, again, I would refer to the statement, a very
powerful statement to me, deeds not words.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you one last question --
AMANPOUR: -- because bringing it back a little bit to Michael Jackson and another entertainer. You throw block party, a Michael Jackson block party,
in Brooklyn every year.
LEE: For the last nine years.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And he's be dead nearly 10 years now. You know, there's a new film, "Leaving Neverland," it highlights the story of two men who say
they were abused by Jackson and that it premiered at Sundance last month.
Can you separate the artist from the man, the art from the man? Are you still in the mood for throwing Michael Jackson block parties?
LEE: Yes. Because first of all, I have not seen the film, so I cannot comment on it. And when I've read those guys have said several times on
many occasions that Michael did not molest him.
So, this is a very difficult thing because there's always been this dynamic, can you separate an artist from their work. Example, Leni
Riefenstahl, great, great, great filmmaker but was she a Nazi? I mean, so there's -- it's difficult.
AMANPOUR: Hitler -- we're talking about Hitler's favorite filmmaker.
AMANPOUR: On that note, very serious and profound note, thank you.
LEE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: We turn next to a small nation caught in the middle of an enormous tug of war and to the woman leading the defense. She is Nicola
Sturgeon, well-known as the first Minister of Scotland. One of the only a handful of female heads of government around the world.
And since the U.K. voted for Brexit back in 2016, Scotland has been caught up in this crisis against its will. It voted overwhelmingly to stay in the
E.U. Nicola Sturgeon has been a leading voice for a second referendum on E.U. membership and she's doing everything that she can to make sure her
economy survives Brexit. And that mission has brought her to the United States where Brexit is an ongoing topic of fascination and some confusion.
Our Michel Martin caught up with Sturgeon in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST, AMANPOUR: First Minister, thank you so much for joining us.
NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: You're very welcome. It's lovely to be here.
MARTIN: I think most Americans know that Scotland has a long --
MARTIN: -- and fruitful close relationship with the United States, both, you know, culturally, economically and lots of other ways.
MARTIN: But I just wonder if there's something about the tone of the current administration that concerns you. You probably heard some --
MARTIN: -- of the president's State of the Union address --
STURGEON: I did.
MARTIN: -- and the very first couple of words he talked about putting America's interests first and I wonder if there's something that concerns
you, that you felt a need to address while you're here.
STURGEON: Well, look, I think it's no secret that I'm not aligned politically with the current president of the United States. We, you know,
disagree and differ on many things.
But as you see, Scotland and the U.S. have a very strong and longstanding relationship, and that relationship endures regardless of who occupies the
office of president or a first minister of Scotland.
As it was the timing of my visit is perhaps more to do with developments in the U.K. than in the U.S. Brexit, of course, the U.K. leaving the European
Union is an issue that is occupying much of our thinking. And I want to make sure that the rest of the world knows that notwithstanding Brexit,
Scotland remains open for business, Scotland didn't vote to leave the E.U., that's something that's happening to us against our will but we want to
make sure that other countries know that Scotland remains open and welcoming and we want to attract businesses and individuals to come and
live and work in our country.
MARTIN: One reason that some Americans are very interested in Brexit apart from just all the obvious is that they saw it as kind of a precursor to
what happened in the United States with the rise of Donald Trump as president. What is your view about what led to Brexit?
STURGEON: I think some of the factors behind Brexit are probably the same factors that perhaps were behind the election of Donald Trump as president
of the U.S., obviously, they're different situations and different circumstances.
But in the U.K. I think the Brexit vote, ironically, wasn't entirely to do with the European Union and the U.K.'s membership with the European Union.
Many people who voted to leave the E.U. were voting against the status quo because there was concern -- is considered, understandable concern in the
U.K. about rising levels of inequality and poverty, people feeling as if the status quo is not serving them well, that sometimes manifests itself in
a view that immigration is to blame for that and we need to reduce the numbers of people coming to live in our country. And I guess some of the
same factors would apply in the election of Donald Trump.
MARTIN: I mean, you've been very blunt about saying that the U.K. is not ready, that the May government is not ready to meet this deadline. What
should happen now in your view?
STURGEON: Well, the prime minister, Theresa may, in my view, should ask Europe for an extension of the deadline because after two-and-a-half years
she and her government have been completely incapable of coming up with a plan to leave the E.U. in an orderly well-managed fashion.
So, the risk now is that we leave at the end of March with no agreement in place, and that would have quite catastrophic effects for almost every
aspect of life in the U.K. And even if an agreement struck in the next couple of weeks, we're running out of time to do all of the practical
things to put that agreement into effect.
And in my view, because there is no agreement about how to leave the European Union in the U.K., we should put the issue back to the people in
MARTIN: But what would that accomplish though? Because it's my understanding that, you know, we've asked whether there was buyer's remorse
MARTIN: And it appears that it's not so much that there's buyer's remorse, is that people are dug in, that the people who are against it are still
against it, they're even more against it now and the people who were for it are just mad that it hasn't happened yet. So, what would another
STURGEON: There's some truth in what you've just said there. Opinion polls would suggest that opinion is still quite evenly balanced. Although,
it would also suggest that if there was another referendum the outcome probably would be to remain in the E.U. And I guess in another referendum,
young people who, by and large, wanted to stay in the E.U. might be more likely to vote than they were in the first referendum.
MARTIN: So, the idea is that people are better educated now than they were before?
STURGEON: (INAUDIBLE). Ironically --
MARTIN: Or is that more people are aware of how -- what the stakes are and would participate --
STURGEON: A bit of both. I think people are more aware of the stakes and would participate, I think others are undoubtedly more informed about the
downsides and people have seen, you know, the makes that's been made over the process of Brexit since the vote.
I don't think there's any room for complacency in any electoral contest, whether it's a referendum on an election, you have to make a case and you
have to win that case. But I do think that that is every likelihood the result would be different and people would all know. Ironically, people
are much more informed about the issues around this than they were before they voted.
MARTIN: And so, what (INAUDIBLE) independence? I think people may remember that there was a referendum on independence and that Scotland
voted against it, there was a very spirited debates -- I don't know if campaign is the right word. But it was a very spirited --
STURGEON: And it was very informed campaign. Unlike the Brexit vote, people really got into the issues before the vote. So, people voted
knowing all of the ins and outs and the pros and cons, where and --
MARTIN: But to my understanding that part of the reason that people voted against it was that they wanted to stay within the E.U.?
STURGEON: Ironically, I used the word ironic again, in the independence campaign, one of the arguments that was made by those who were against
independence was if Scotland voted to be independent, we would be thrown out of the European Union because the U.K. is the member state and we would
have to reapply for membership. And that did scare some people.
And here we are four years later, because we are not independent, we have been taken out of the European Union. So, that, undoubtedly, brings the
issue of independence back to the fore in many people's minds we are in this position because we're not independent, you know, 62 percent of people
in Scotland voted to remain in the E.U. and yet, in a matter of weeks, we could be outside the E.U.
So, that democratic deficit that Scotland faces has been part of the U.K. undoubtedly makes many people want to look again at the issue of Scotland
becoming an independent country.
MARTIN: And what about you? Are you looking again at the prospect of -- or supporting another referendum of Scottish independence?
STURGEON: Absolutely. I think there will be another independence referendum. And I -- when that happens, I think Scotland this time will
vote to be independent and that would be a way of us then being able to protect our place in Europe and make sure that the decisions that, you
know, influence this direction of our country are taken in Scotland Norte in London.
The timing of that is yet to be determined. Obviously, there's a lot of concern about the Brexit process just now. And as first minister of
Scotland, I have said that I will set out my view on the timing of another independence referendum in the next few weeks, once we see how did this
Brexit process finally place out.
MARTIN: But I'm pressing the question because it sounds to me as though you're saying that Scotland has had enough. So, no matter what Britain
decides to do, Scotland wants to be independent now because you've seen the most negative consequences --
MARTIN: -- or even potential consequences, even the potential consequences are enough to say to people enough is enough.
MARTIN: So, why not just call it then?
STURGEON: Well, what I'm saying is, I think there will be another independence and I think there should be another independence referendum.
I'm not yet certain of exactly when that should happen.
Because right now, you know, a few weeks from Brexit, we don't know whether the U.K. will leave with a deal or leave without a deal or perhaps not
leave at all, there could be another general election in the U.K. because of this chaos, there might be another referendum on the issue of European
So, I think we need to just wait and see a little bit about what's going to happen on these things before I come to view and when the rate time for an
independence referendum would be.
MARTIN: Do you think in -- I'm not quite sure what timeframe, three years, five, that Scotland will be applying to the E.U. as an independent nation?
STURGEON: I would love to think so and I think it will. I'm not going to put a particular time scale in it right now. But in the not too distant
future, I think Scotland will be an independent country looking to join the E.U. as an independent country and looking to take a seat at the United
Nations not far away from here.
MARTIN: So in the time we have left, I do want to ask a little bit about you. You belong to the very small club of women heads of government. The
legislative body here in the United States has elected the largest number of women serving for the first time but it's still a tiny minority, nowhere
Achieving gender equity has been a signature issue for you and you've recently been appointed to another position to the United Nations where
you'll be sort of amplifying this issue on the world stage. And I just wanted to know if you have some sort of core principles for how you pursue
this question, you know, as a head of state.
STURGEON: What I would see and how I come at this issue is shifting people's mindset on it. And instead of seeing efforts to support women
into leadership positions across all sections of society, a special pleading or unfair preferment, we should actually look at it from the other
Unless you take the view, which hopefully not very many people do, that women are somehow less capable of being in senior positions in any
organization, whether that's a government or a company or a public organization, that doesn't have gender diversity and equal representation
is obviously doing something wrong because there must be barriers in the way to women progressing. And it's those barriers we have to help take
And I'm a great believer that we should all lead by example. One of -- as you see, too few head female heads of government. I have a gender balance
cabinet and we encourage all organizations across Scotland to take action.
And the other thing that we really need to, I think, encourage understanding of is that -- this is not something to do just because it's
good for women and it's fair for women. All of the evidence now says that companies, organizations, governments that have greater diversity and
greater representation of women in their decision-making actually perform better. And so there's a really hardheaded reason to promote gender
equality as well as a principled reason.
MARTIN: Well, there are those who see it as social engineering. I know that there's a lot of resistance in this country.
STURGEON: That's the opposite view. Surely, to have a society where women are so underrepresented, that's been social engineering gone wrong over
generations. And we want to utilize the talents of all of our population, not just half of our population. Women are as capable of being government
leaders, heads of businesses as men are.
So the fact that we have this inequality between the genders, that's a sign that something is wrong, not -- it's not efforts to redress that, the
social engineering. That's about redressing the systemic barriers that women face.
MARTIN: On the other hand, and this is a sensitive subject and we're not going to litigate it here, your predecessor as first minister has recently
been accused of some very serious misconduct when it comes to his relationships with women. But your role and his has been criticized. I
know that you had meetings with him while this matter was still being sort of investigated. Is that leading by example?
STURGEON: Well, I can't go into detail of that because it is a criminal proceeding. But what I see and what I've always sought to act on as well
as talk about is the fact that nobody should be given special treatment because of their seniority or their position.
And we're sitting here talking about this, in itself is evidence that it wasn't simply brushed under the carpet because of the identity of the
person involved. And that's what I think is important. And as I say I can't go into the detail of any of this because of the circumstances of it.
But nobody should be above accountability for these issues, whether it's a head of a government or whoever. When complaints come forward, they must
be treated properly and investigated properly. And that's the important principle that I advocate and always will.
MARTIN: Do you feel as a woman leader yourself, and as I said one of the very few, that you have some special responsibility here, that you're under
special scrutiny here? What is your special responsibility when it comes to this?
STURGEON: I think it's to speak up and ensure that women are taken seriously and that women are not automatically disbelieved and that we have
[13:35:00] systems in place that allow concerns and complaints to be properly dealt with. And if we fall short on those, to address that and
make sure we get to rate in future.
And as a woman, I feel very strongly about these issues and I feel a responsibility on these issues. But it can't just be the responsibility of
women. Often here, we're talking about the behavior and the conduct of men. And men have to take ownership and responsibility for that as well.
And that's something that I think we shouldn't lose sight of.
MARTIN: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, thanks so much for speaking to us.
AMANPOUR: And how right she is. Anyone can and should help lift up women everywhere. It's an issue close to the heart of my next guest, the French
Moroccan Author Leila Slimani. She is a card-carrying feminist. She penned two raw and somewhat controversial novels, The Perfect Nanny known
as Lullaby in the U.K. and Adele, biting looks into a lot of women today. Slimani is 1 of only 12 female writers to win France's prestigious Concord
Prize. That's in over 100 years since it was created.
And she joined me to discuss writing about female identity and sexuality, as well as racial and class tensions that continue to plague the West.
Leila Slimani welcome to the program.
LEILA SLIMANI, AUTHOR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So you've written two books that have really grabbed attention. They're very, very much -- how can I say? They -- you push your characters
to the extremes. You push the story to the extremes. But they're also based on kind of bits of autobiographical, bits of real life.
Let's just take Lullaby which I think in America was called "The Perfect Nanny".
SLIMANI: Exactly, yes.
AMANPOUR: It is every mother's nightmare or is every mother who can afford child care and wants to go to work. What made you want to tackle that
SLIMANI: I think I want to write about my nightmares. I want to write about what's frightened me the most because maybe I have the feeling that
if I write about it, it's never going to happen to me and I am able to control it.
And, of course, like any mother, any parent, some afraid of something happening to my child and that my children could die. In my first book
Adele, I'm afraid of addiction so that's why I write about addiction. I wrote about rape because as many women are scared to be raped. And I have
the feeling that if I write about it, it's not going to happen.
AMANPOUR: That's extraordinary because -- let's just take Lullaby first, The Perfect Nanny. It did happen. These things, it didn't happen to you.
But you took stories that were very raw, particularly one.
I remember it happened a few blocks from my house in New York. A working couple entrusted their children to a Central American nanny and they came
home one day to find two of their kids stabbed to death. And you begin your book Lullaby with this horrendous horrendous scene. I'm just going to
read a little bit of it.
This is when they found the little girl who was still alive when the ambulances came. Eyes bulging, she seemed to be gasping for air. Her
throat was filled with blood. Her lungs had been punctured. Her head smashed violently against the blue chest of drawers.
It's a very violent beginning to a book. Were you aware? Did, you do that on purpose.
SLIMANI: Yes. I think I was not really aware of how violent it was but I was aware that I needed to begin with something very violent and with that
tension, for the reader to be very attentive to every detail as I was going to describe after because my story is very trivial.
This is a story of a nanny and two parents and children. And the life of a nanny is very repetitive. Every day, she does the same thing. So how
could I, as a writer, give to the reader the appetite to read such a book that is going to be very repetitive.
So I needed to begin with something very strong to frighten my reader so the reader is going to go very deep into the book and try to understand why
the nanny did such a thing.
AMANPOUR: I'm interested that you chose that particular episode. It happened far away from your own experience. It happened in New York. It
happened a few years ago. As I say, a few blocks away from where I live. So I remember the area being cordoned off and the sheer horror of what had
And as a mother who had a nanny was terrified just like you were. So it was really really, really shocking. But are you saying also something
about women? Are you talking about mothers who need to go back to work or who want to go back to work and the risks or the tradeoffs or are you
saying something more than just that physical danger?
SLIMANI: No. I think that what I'm trying to say is that when we have it all as a woman, when we are a woman, a wife, a mother, [13:40:00] can be a
journalist or whatever, a lawyer like in my book, it's very difficult actually to have it all.
And you always have to sacrifice something. If you sacrifice time for your children or you sacrifice time for your job and you always feel incomplete.
And I wanted also to show, to express the fact that when you are away from your children and you go to work and you smile and you try to be perfect
and to do your job as perfectly as you can, the truth is that you have so much anxiety and you feel so worried about your children. Do they miss me?
Are they OK? And you would like to be with them.
And at the same time when you are with them, sometimes you would like to be somewhere else. So it's very difficult to be a woman today and to have it
AMANPOUR: I mean honestly it is the perpetual dilemma. And you write about this. In your book, the character is Miriam. She is I believe of
AMANPOUR: The nanny is white. Her name is Louise. It's a flip to what happened in the United States.
So you're talking about Miriam. She was especially wary of women who could be so cruel. She wanted to strangle the ones who pretended to admire her
or worse to envy her.
More than anything, she feared strangers, the ones who innocently ask what she did for a living and looked away when she said that she was a stay-at-
home mother. I mean so many women will recognize that no matter what country they come from.
SLIMANI: Yes. I think that we can be very cruel today with women who don't work, women who prefer to stay with their children. We despise her
very often because with all this thing of empowerment -- and it's very good. I'm a feminist and I defend empowerment. But at the same time, I
think that women should have the choice and we should not judge someone who decides to stay with their children.
AMANPOUR: And this all comes out at a time when we're right in the middle of MeToo, we're right in the middle of even -- well, just as big social
struggles for women to have equal opportunity in the workplace still and certainly, to get equal pay for equal play, equal jobs. So again, it's
really, a shock to the system, this kind of story at this time.
SLIMANI: Yes. And that's why I wanted to build a story that takes place only in the apartment because I think that the domestic place is very
important and we don't speak about it a lot or enough I think. And I think that a domestic place is a political place, a place of domination, of power
between parents and children, between men and women, between domestics and employees.
And we have to talk about that because there is no equality between men and women if we don't share the task inside the house, if we don't share the
parents with children. So I think it's very very important to speak about that in a political way.
AMANPOUR: I've never heard it put that way but you're absolutely right. The domestic space is a political space.
SLIMANI: Yes. And very often, a violent space. When you look at the domestic violence towards women, it takes place in the home. Home is not
only a refugee, a place of tenderness and softness. No, it's also a place of violence.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean moving right on to Adele which actually you wrote first I think.
AMANPOUR: Yes. You said this was your fear of addiction is what compelled you to write this. Somebody might say well that's maybe drugs or alcohol
or whatever. But actually, in this case, it's sex addiction.
The young woman is a journalist. She looks like -- again she has it all. She's successfully married. I think she's a mom. But she has a secret
double life where she's a sex addict. Where did that come from? I mean you're a journalist. You worked --
SLIMANI: Yes, absolutely. This expression having it all, I think it's very interesting because when you are a young woman or you're a young
teenager, people tell you what you are supposed to want is to get married, to have a child.
You have a good job, a nice apartment, and then you have it all. And what is left to desire, that's the question I'm asking in that book. Maybe that
woman wants more.
And very often, the women who want more are punished for wanting more. And this woman, she wants more. She wants excitement. She wants desires. She
But at the same time, she knows that society have given her very much because she's married to a doctor. She has a child. She is supposed to be
satisfied. So she feels guilty for not being satisfied.
And she's looking to fill this void with sex. But as you said, it could be with drugs or it could be with alcohol or even with gambling, I don't know.
AMANPOUR: But it's interesting because it's not just that she wants more. She wants passion and excitement and all that. I mean she goes and pretty
much has sex with anybody she sees. I mean people she picks up in the metro, in the subway, anyone.
SLIMANI: Yes, exactly. And that's why I was very interested in the mechanism of addiction. There's a book I really love. It's "The Gambler"
by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
And in this book, he describes very well the mechanism of addiction. You want something and at the same time, you know that this thing is going to
destroy you and you can't help it. So you [13:45:00] take this thing and then you hate yourself for taking in and it never ends. And it's love at
first and hatred and I wanted also to describe that.
AMANPOUR: And yet, you would think that it might disrupt her marriage. Her husband would walk out. In fact, he doesn't. How does he react, the
SLIMANI: That was the interesting part for me, the love story. And I was asking myself the question, can you forgive something like that? Is it
possible to forgive someone who lied to you for so many years and who cheated on you?
And I think that the husband is fascinated by his wife because he doesn't understand her because she's a mystery. And he would like to control her
but he knows that it's impossible. And that's why he wants to keep her and he tells her, "You have a disease. And I'm a doctor. I'm going to cure
this disease and I'm going to help you. You're going to heal." But the truth is it's not a disease. It would be too easy to say that it's only a
disease. It's something else.
AMANPOUR: Spoiler alert. Do they stay together?
SLIMANI: You have to read it.
AMANPOUR: You have to read it. You have to read it. How much of it is autobiographical? I mean you said some of the impulses that you write
about are things that you think about. But how much of it is autobiographical? You yourself of French Moroccan extraction. You
yourself like Miriam in Lullaby. You yourself are a journalist or were like the character in Adele.
SLIMANI: It's very difficult for a writer to say what is autobiographical or what is not. I think that an autobiography is when you say I and you
say I and you really express the truth about yourself. If you decide to write fiction, everything is fiction.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you because I'm really interested. You were covering the Arab Spring and among other places, Tunisia. And you got
arrested there. Why and how did that inform your life experience, your experience as a writer then?
SLIMANI: You know I have to say that I was a mother of a very young child at that time, traveling a lot, and coming home and looking at my child who
I was missing very very much. And it was hard. That's a very hard job to be a reporter and to travel a lot.
And sometimes you feel very frustrated because you put so much work and so much energy in just an article. And one week after, you have to write
another article and you have the feeling that everyone forgot about the previous one. So I was maybe too frustrated and I wanted to write books
because books say.
AMANPOUR: Why did you get arrested?
SLIMANI: You know it was very common at that time to be arrested when you were a journalist, a woman and a Muslim in the street, especially when you
were taking photographs.
AMANPOUR: So when you were covering the Tunisian, Arab Spring which was where it all started, what did you feel? I don't know whether you are
Muslim but you're a woman from a Muslim country. What did you feel about the changing face of womanhood in particular in that country because
Tunisia has tried anyway --
AMANPOUR: -- to really fulfill the promises of the Arabs.
SLIMANI: And even now. Even now, I think that it's a very very important country for us Arabs who are who are light and who are liberals. It's very
important because --
AMANPOUR: Secular you mean when you say light.
SLIMANI: Yes, exactly. And it's a very -- it's an extraordinary country. And I felt at that time so much joy and I felt proud. For the first time
in my life, I felt proud of being a young Arab woman because they make us proud to go in the street. That was so brave. It was a wonderful moment
AMANPOUR: I'm really interested in hearing you call yourself a young Arab woman. So you obviously really embrace and own all sides of your heritage,
Arab, French --
SLIMANI: Yes, I'm Arab. I'm French. I'm from the West. I'm from Africa.
AMANPOUR: So what do you make of what's going on in our society still to this day with the racism, whether it's black and white in America, whether
it's Arab in white in France, or whatever it might be here and you can see what's going on all over Europe?
I mean do you see a positive path? Or do you see things as tense without as much resolution as maybe we would have hoped in 2019?
SLIMANI: Yes. I see the tension. Of course, I see the violence. But I have -- if I'm really honest with you, I have to say that I live in a group
that is -- where there is no racism, where people are very open-minded. I belong to the group who take advantage of globalization.
I'm not a victim of globalization. I travel all the time. I speak many languages. I go to nice restaurants and nice cities. I read books.
The truth is I could tell you that I am worried that I see this tension, that I am a victim of this or that but that's not true. The truth is my
life is very nice because I live in a bubble. That's the truth.
AMANPOUR: But others in France don't live in a bubble.
SLIMANI: Yes. Yes. No, and that's the problem I think --
AMANPOUR: Yes. And many people of your origin do not feel like you do.
SLIMANI: Yes. Yes, absolutely.
AMANPOUR: So what, for instance, can this young, dynamic, reform-minded President Macron do? And I ask you now because he's under so much pressure
from (INAUDIBLE), from people who just, you know, trying to push his reforms back.
SLIMANI: But [13:50:00] I think that in many countries in the West, the problem is this gap I was telling you about. This gap between a part of
the country who has the feeling that they are taking advantage of globalization, who are more open-minded, and want more Europe and want open
borders. And the rest of the population who are a victim of this globalization and finds that their life is getting worse and worse.
So the problem is this gap. How do we live together? How is it possible to rebuild our society and to find goals that are the goals of everyone and
not only of a few?
AMANPOUR: On the MeToo issue, you know when it all started. And then there was a letter, an open letter by among other people the famous
actress, Catherine Deneuve, and others who basically said, you know, we should have the right to be looked at, to be stared at, to be wanted,
desired. You know all of this MeTooism is going too far.
And you wrote a counter-letter, a rebuttal, an open letter rebuttal where you said?
SLIMANI: We should have the rights not to be bullied, harassed, et cetera. And I said you should look a little bit out of France and look at the
situation of women in Egypt, in Peru, in Kongu, in Pakistan because the life of women there is not at all like the life in Paris where you want a
man to look at you and to tell you that you're pretty. It's not the problem there.
AMANPOUR: Do you think they get it now? This slightly older generation of women.
SLIMANI: Yes, I think, I think, I think. I think at the beginning was difficult because they were afraid that France was going to lose something
in terms of supposed libertinage and this philosophy of gallantry. But now --
AMANPOUR: And the sensuality and the sexuality that was not known before.
SLIMANI: Yes. But I think that now they understand the difference between defending this culture and defending women and the rights for women to be
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you also about race. I mean you don't overtly discuss race or write about it. But it's still a subtext in a lot of what
you write. James Baldwin, the great American writer, black, came to Paris because he couldn't get the space that he needed in the United States.
And he is still so relevant today. Even one of the last books he wrote, "If Beale Street Could Talk." It's a major movie. It's Oscar-nominated,
all sorts of awards. Are you surprised that he and that kind of writing remained so relevant today, still so raw?
SLIMANI: No, I'm not surprised. Unfortunately, I'm not surprised. And especially in the U.S., you know, I'm very interested in the questions of
either race issue in the U.S. And for French Moroccan women, I'm still very shocked and very surprised and I must say scandalized by the situation
of black people in the United States.
And a few days ago, I was watching a documentary with my son about the situation of black people in the 60s and segregation. And it's so hard
today to explain to a little kid that like 50 years ago, black people wouldn't have the right to sit on a bus or to go to certain restaurants.
And he was like, "But I don't understand why. Can you tell me why?" I was like, no, I can't. Actually, I can't tell you why. It's impossible to
explain to a child.
So this -- yes, this violence remains not only there but it remains also in Europe. If you see the situation in Hungary, even in Italy the racism now.
And in the south of Spain, now extreme riots. One in the south of Spain who was socialist for decades. So yes, that's very, very -- I'm very
AMANPOUR: I want to -- you're very pessimistic?
SLIMANI: Yes. Because all the worst things happen, you know so --
AMANPOUR: Keep happening?
SLIMANI: Yes, exactly.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, talking about Baldwin. A recent article in "The Financial Times", you called him "a soldier, a comrade". He's a brother in
arms in a war that doesn't end. Do you feel that a little bit that this is a war that doesn't end?
SLIMANI: Yes, it's a war that doesn't end. But at the same time, what makes me optimistic is that today, we talk of James Baldwin and that today
this kind of intellectual matters and are unbuttoned now into a debate.
And I was working a few months ago with a group of people from different universities in Europe about colonialism, about race, and about feminism.
And it's very interesting because now we are studying topics that were not relevant 50 years ago.
So I think it's going to change. And also what makes me optimistic is that now people from the south like me but people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
or other people coming from Africa are very important in the debate. And we can speak of other topics and give another point of view, the point of
view of the children of colonization and I think that it's very important.
AMANPOUR: It's an amazing time. Leila Slimani, thank you so much for joining me.
SLIMANI: Thank you. Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: And we hope you enjoyed those conversations in all that complexity and diversity as we end [13:55:00] this week.
And that is it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. See us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.